Diabetes drives soaring organ trade

One an hour. That's how many kidneys are traded on the black market the World Health Organisation (WHO) now reckons.

Desperate for a new kidney - much of the demand is being driven by diabetes and other afflictions - some people are paying up to $200,000 to gangs to harvest organs, often from desperately poor people.

High stakes

Illegal trafficking in 'transplant tourism' appears to be on the rise. "There is a growing need for transplants and big profits to be made," WHO doctor Luc Noel told the Guardian. "It's ever growing, it's a constant struggle. The stakes are so big, the profit that can be made so huge, that the temptation is out there."

Increasingly this market looks something close to a kind of donor auction. WHO statistics claims more than 100,000 organs were both legally and illegally transplanted in 2010.

In America alone it's estimated that 400,000 Americans with kidney failure currently undergo daily dialysis with almost 5,000 each year dying while waiting for a transplant.

Poor and desperate

The NHS has issued guidance about UK kidney donation, including being a living donor. Earlier this year the UK's Human Tissue Authority issued new plans for upping living kidney transplantation.

So far it's thought there are no long-term consequences for living with one kidney. If one of the kidneys is taken out usually the remaining kidney grows in size to help compensate for the loss.

But while many adjust to the growing options and knowledge of organ transplants, many people continue to buy overseas organs from the poor and the desperate, who often have little resource to medical care following the removal of their organs.

Given the supply-and-demand market pressures here - as well as rising Western obesity - some are arguing the case for mandatory organ donation. With around half a million people suffering from kidney failure each year, there could be a case for it.

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