Most humans are beasts with little humanity in them.
Of that, we’ve always been convinced.
And so would all thinking people be, if only they dared to look around with a thinking eye.
But the scale of Man’s inhumanity and callousness toward fellow humans never ceases to surprise even one so cynical as yours truly.
We recently picked up The Red Market by Scott Carney from our local library after seeing a reference to the book in either the WSJ or New Yorker (we can’t remember which one).
Red Market is about trade in human organs, a trade where “crimes are covered up in a veil of altruistic ideals.” [p.6]
Even to souls pessimistic about the civilized nature of Man and NRIs like us familiar with the kidney selling business in India, Red Market is an eye opener.
Our interest in the book was also piqued by its strong focus on India.
The focus on India is not surprising for two reasons.
First, because its American author Scott Carney made his home in Chennai, India from 2006-2009 and before that lived in Rajasthan and Dharamsala. Cementing his ties to India further, the author is married to a Tamil girl Padma Govindan.
Second, where else but India can one find the acme of man’s inhumanity toward fellow humans beneath the veneer of piety, concern and civilization than that barbaric land (where a drunk Bollywood actor can with impunity kill sleeping pavement dwellers by driving his Toyota Land Cruiser on them in the dead of the night).
Despite several nations banning the sale and purchase of body parts, vested interests (doctors, hospitals, brokers, administrators, organ transporters and indifferent buyers) have skirted the laws through the fake use of the ‘donation‘ nomenclature.
As Carney writes:
You may not pay for a heart, but you definitely pay for a heart transplant. In effect, the cost of a heart migrates into the costs of services to acquire one. Hospitals and medical institutions increasingly turn profits on organ transplants; some even return revenues to shareholders. Everyone in the supply chain makes money except the actual donor. The ban on buying human body parts has allowed hospitals to acquire them essentially for free.[p.11-12]
Carney acknowledges that his book is not an encyclopedia on organ trading but addresses only the issues in the supply chain – the nexus between doctors, hospitals, brokers, criminals, the desperate buyers and the hopelessly poor that has created a situation where the poor now are compelled to sell their body parts to let the rich live a few years more.
Or where childless Westerners adopt a stolen Third World kid at a bargain rate.
Adoption, of course, is the ultimate form of organ trading where a whole body is traded to feed the craving of some Westerners for a child.
In 254 pages, Red Market manages to cover a lot of ground – trade in bones/skeletons for U.S. medical schools, kidney trading, illegal adoption, womb renting, cross-border organ trade, blood theft, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and high cost of organ transplants in the U.S. and UK that lead patients to travel to third world countries like India and Pakistan.
The case studies Carney provides from Tsunami Nagar a.k.a. Kidneyvakkam near Chennai show that it’s desperately poor women like Rani and Mallika who, compelled by poverty and inveigled by false promises of high payments, sell their kidneys to wealthy people.
Sadly, both Rani and Mallika never fully recovered after donating a kidney and suffer from pain.
When Carney asks Rani if it was worth it, she replies:
The brokers should be stopped. My real problem is poverty – I shouldn’t have to sell my kidney to save my daughter’s life. [p.70]
The high cost of organ transplant ($259,000 for a kidney transplant in the U.S.) is prompting many Westerners to head East ushering in a medical tourism that will be devastating to the long-term health of the poor natives in countries like India, Pakistan and Cyprus. But does anybody care?
The situation is obscenely horrible in China where condemned political prisoners are stripped of their organs before being shot. [p.82-88]
Organ harvesting industries exploit the bodies of disadvantaged people around the world. In profit-driven markets the poor are exploited and alienated from their flesh; in government-run programs the state takes control of human bodies and erases any illusion of free will. [p.88-89]
The Chinese government has made millions of dollars by selling the bodies of prisoners (including the Falun Gong dissidents) to wealthy patients.
Did we hear anyone say Man is civilized?
Postponing Mortality – At What Cost?
Carney cites studies by scholars like Professor Nancy Scheper-Hughes of the University of California-Berkeley that see the insatiable demand for organs to medical hubris in the face of mortality. [p.76]
Often, such transplants merely extend life for just a few years and oftentimes trade “a fatal disease for a chronic one.” [p.77]
Adoption via Kidnapping
If the circumstances surrounding organ transplants are mostly exploitative, stories of kidnapping of babies by orphanages to earn high fees via adoption make for heartrending reading.
Carney cites examples of kidnapping in Chennai and Andhra Pradesh by orphanages resulting in great anguish to the biological parents.
By the way, Rs 10,000 is all it takes to kidnap a child in Chennai.
Mo Easy Solutions but More Transparency
There are no easy solutions to the issues brought up by organ transplant including adoption and womb renting.
And Carney is wise to recognize that.
What he repeatedly calls for is radical transparency in the whole process and removing the veil of secrecy that shrouds the transplant business.
Carney hopes this will lessen the exploitation of the desperately poor.
We’re not so sanguine.
Carney also calls upon both doctors and patients to be more realistic about mortality. [p.77]
SearchIndia.com strongly recommends all ye schmucks read Red Market.
There’s more to life than Bollywood movies and earning $$ as a software coolie.
Red Market is available at Amazon and surely at most U.S. libraries.