Shashank Bengali is the Los Angeles Times South Indian correspondent. Some time ago he had written a story about a hospital in Mumbai that was busted because it was doing illegal kidney transplants, which he says was a sort of cautionary tale because a young man has been lured to sell a kidney. Months later Bengali received an email. Someone thought he was in the business of selling kidneys. He did not pay much attention at first, but then the emails kept coming, from several countries. Although most of the emailers were from India, some were from Peru, Croatia, Germany, Russia, Kenya, Nigeria and a few even from the US. He became aware of how desperate people could be and tried to engage with them to explain he was not who they thought he was, and discovered how persistent they could be and what some of their reasons were–debts, illness, poverty. That’s when Bengali wrote another article about the emails he had received. The WHO (world Health Organization) does not sanction selling Kidneys, mainly because it tends to exploit the disadvantaged. In India as in just about any country, the practice is illegal. In fact Bengali says the only country where it is legal is in Iran and there it is a government run program and the going rate is about $4000. One of the US emailers did not consider the practice illegal, to him it was a win-win, someone received a kidney, he received the money he wanted.
Bengali’s latest article on the subject is poignant simply because it impels readers to confront the inequality in the world, the poverty and need for money, but even more so the desperation of so many willing to sell a kidney for a relatively small amount of money in order to meet some financial obligation.