Monday, August 18, 2008

Guna Ponraj, an autorickshaw driver, who sold one of his kidneys in exchange for a mound of cash . Photo by Anuj Chopra

India's Black Market Racket in Human Kidneys

By Anuj Chopra

CHENNAI, INDIA— Tears well up in Guna Ponraj's rheumy eyes as he stares at the hideous scar running down his side. A year ago, he consented to a practice he assumed would be the swiftest way to escape his mounting debts: swapping a kidney for cash.
An organ procurer promised Ponraj, 38, an auto rickshaw driver with a fourth-grade education, $2,500 for one of his kidneys. "Humans don't need two kidneys, I was made to believe," he says, now lamenting his decision. "I can sell my extra kidney and become rich, I thought." But he was swindled and received only half that much. And since the operation, Ponraj often misses work because of excruciating pain around his hip, pushing him more deeply into debt.Many Indian cities, such as Chennai in southern India, are becoming hubs for the illicit kidney business, despite a 1994 ban on such trade in human organs. Organized rings of hustlers, working in cooperation with some doctors, prowl slum neighborhoods for vulnerable donors like Ponraj to supply a growing number of mainly foreign patients seeking kidney transplants...

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