A 17-year-old in China, identified only as Zheng, recently sold a kidney on the black market in return for enough money to purchase a laptop and an iPad 2.
When I swapped my Huffy bicycle with streamers on the handlebars for a limited edition Madonna Swatch watch, my parents grounded me indefinitely. At the time the trade seemed obvious and beneficial but looking back, I realize my decision was convoluted by the inordinate desires of childhood.
In the manner of youth, with a passion for obtaining the latest coveted technology, Zheng researched opportunities to raise enough money to purchase the Apple tablet because he "wanted to buy an iPad 2, but didn't have the money," he told reporters.
Zheng was contacted online by a broker offering to buy his kidney for a reported 22,000 RMB, approximately $3,394 USD, about half the annual salary of a Chinese blue-collar worker. The Hunan province hospital where Zheng had his kidney removed denied knowledge of the surgery when confronted by the teenager's mother and authorities but did confess to contracting out its urology department to private individuals. Authorities have been unsuccessful in locating the organ brokers.
It has been estimated that a million Chinese people need an organ transplant each year, but fewer than 10,000 become recipients. However, many foreign "transplant tourists" visit the country to obtain a black market transplant when other options are not available in their own countries.
Zheng reportedly suffered complications following the surgery, but is now recuperating. Selling an organ might have seemed like a good trade for Zheng but, unlike trading a Huffy, he could pay the consequences for the rest of his life. Most individuals with one kidney live quite normal lives; yet, for a technology that will be defunct with Apple's next release that "changes everything again," Zheng is now at a greater risk for high blood pressure, harboring excessive waste protein which can lead to kidney damage, and must carefully avoid alcohol and injury to the area. While these may not be life threatening, in 20 years he will likely experience unnecessary burdens for what Chinese teens today view as a great status symbol. The young don't live to be old, and unfortunately, there will never be an app for that.
I would not hesitate to donate a kidney to a family member in need but not solely for financial gain. When I asked my teenage nephew if he would trade his kidney for an iPad 2, he stated, "Seems like a good deal to me." Surprised at this, I mentioned the news to my husband who agreed that it was ridiculous and stated, "I would have held out for a 52-inch plasma."