An extensive article published by the New York Times under the title “European Crisis Bolsters Illegal Sales of Body Parts” features Greece among the countries where illegal organ sales have recently been recorded as a result of dire financial conditions.
In heavily indebted Greece, a 46-year-old businessman from Piraeus recently said that the only way to save his family from ending up on the streets was to sell a kidney for €100,000, or $123,000. He told the Greek media that he had even hired a private investigator to help him find a buyer, reports journalist Dan Bilefski.
With Europe roiled by financial upheaval, experts say that the black market for human organs — traditionally based in China, India, Brazil and the Philippines — is expanding to crisis-hit Western countries like Greece, Spain, Italy, and poor Balkan nations like Serbia. Vulnerable, desperately poor people are seeking to sell their kidneys, lungs, bone marrow or corneas, abetted by the Internet, unscrupulous organ traffickers and a global shortage of organs for transplantation.
While reliable statistics are difficult to come by, 15,000 to 20,000 kidneys are illegally sold globally each year, according to Organ Watch, a human rights group in Berkeley, California, that tracks the illegal organ trade. The United Nations estimates that 5 to 10 percent of kidney transplants performed each year are the result of organ trafficking.
The issue has shaken the Hellenic National Transplant Organization that rushed to publish an announcement informing the public that there have never been illegal organ transplants in Greece because in our country “transplants, either from living or from deceased donors, take place only in transplantation units of state hospitals, under the tight control and supervision of the National Transplant Organization and the Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity.”
“Organ donation, after the end of someone’s life, is the highest form of volunteerism and altruism, solely based on selflessness, philanthropy and love towards suffering people,” concludes the NTO announcement.