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September 1st, 2009
10:22 AM ET

Morning Buzz: Secret harvest

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Eliza Browning
AC360° Associate Producer

We’re doing a special investigative series this week on the illegal trade of body parts.

Illegal kidney transplants can be big business in the United States. No, this is not an urban myth. Illegal transplants – aka using organs bought and sold from a live donor – really happen. In fact, as many as 1,600 of these transplant surgeries are done in the U.S. every year – that’s about three a day. Drew Griffin reports on two particular cases of kidney brokering and speaks to a prominent kidney specialist in New York who tells us he’s been offered bribes of up to $10,000 per patient to refer patients to kidney brokers. More tonight on this black market and the global underground network of organ trafficking in this special investigation.

We’re following the latest on the developments of the Jaycee Lee Dugard kidnapping case. Phillip Garrido and his wife were charged last week with crimes relating to the abduction of Dugard when she was 11 in 1991 and her captivity in a hidden shed-and-tent compound in the couple’s backyard. They pleaded not guilty to charges of rape, kidnapping and false imprisonment. Last night, Katie Callaway Hall, a woman who was raped by Garrido in 1976, shared her story and explained what happened when Garrido approached her in a supermarket parking lot. Dan Simon will give us the latest developments in the investigation tonight.

So why did Garrido serve only 11 years of a 50-year federal sentence for this crime? A lot of people are scratching their heads over Garrido’s early release from prison decades ago. Why was he let out early? Randi Kaye explains how this case might have an impact on current legislation under review in the state of California. Because of the state’s budget woes, lawmakers are looking at ways to reduce costs – and one early parole program may help the state’s bottom line. A bill to release 27,000 prisoners early is currently being reviewed and some lawmakers are already pointing to the Garrido case as an example of what might happen if they go through with this early parole program. Will the case derail the bill? More from Randi tonight.

We’re also keeping an eye on the wildfires in California that grew from 45,000 acres to 100,000 acres in a matter of hours yesterday. What is the latest strategy to fight the fire? We’ll look into evacuation plans and what kind of counseling is being provided to the affected residents.

And August was the deadliest month in Afghanistan since the U.S. led invasion in 2001. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in the country, said success is achievable in Afghanistan as long as the U.S. revises its strategy. Will the Obama administration will send more troops? Obama has called the war in Afghanistan a “war of necessity” and has placed great emphasis on defeating the Taliban and al Qaeda militants operating there and in Pakistan. If he sends more troops, what kind of reaction can we expect from the public? We’ll look into the situation tonight.

What else are you following today? Let us know and see you at 10 p.m. ET!


Filed under: Eliza Browning • The Buzz
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    If people are selling one of their two kidneys I hope they realize that somewhere down the road they might have needed that kidney. Selling a body part of a living person is like gambling – you are betting on staying healthy and never needing that spare kidney. Considering the consequences if you bet wrong I would be reluctant to even consider this. In the end it may not be worth it.

    September 1, 2009 at 4:59 pm |
  2. Eugenia - San Francisco

    Figure 2. Infrared satellite image taken at 12pm EDT, Tuesday Sep 1, 2009. Five major African tropical waves are apparent. Image credit: Navy Research Lab, Monterey.

    are you busy the next couple of weeks?

    September 1, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  3. Jennifer C

    It is absolutely irresponsible to make comments like "Illegal kidney transplants can be big business in the United States" without being very clear you are talking about LIVING donation. These people who are donating one of their kidneys only are able to do it by lying to those who are doing the transplant. This blurb makes it sound like people are robbing the dead, not choosing to sell their own kidney.

    I'm sure there are people who offer bribes for donation, but that does not mean that they are being accepted and acted upon. So you have testimony from someone who was offered a bribe. The true scandal would be if they actually took it and didn't get caught.

    It would also be interesting to see where exactly this 1,600 kidneys being bought a year figure comes from. Are there true statistics behind this number, or is it pulled out of supposition and vague guesswork from unsubstantiated claims of organ selling? So far this year there have only been 2,503 living donations made in the entire country (according to the Organ Procurement Transplant Network, which has records for all US organ donations). Are we expected to believe that almost half of those who receive a living organ donation bought it? I find that a little hard to believe.

    When the media twist the truth to make a bigger headline, it has consequences. How many people will see this report and change their mind about being a donor because they think that doctors are going to let them die and sell their organs? Already one in three people die waiting for an organ. How many more will die waiting due to your scare tactics and sensationalism?

    You should be ashamed of yourselves.

    September 1, 2009 at 3:30 pm |
  4. Shamsa

    HO
    I thought this kind of stuff only happened in the third world countries, but I guess we are all the same selfish human under our facade of civilization.
    Shamsa
    Plano Tx

    September 1, 2009 at 2:49 pm |
  5. Mike

    Vita Zemaitis,

    You are correct that the way to evaluate ghoulish stories about organ procurement is to check them against the facts of how organ transplantation is done. 99.9% of the ghoulish stories, urban legends, passed on and reported as facts by reporters anxious for sensational stories are ignorant of how transplantation is factually accomplished. Organs can't be swiped from anyone, transported long distances, and then transplanted in someone's garage. Transplantation can't be done in secret. It takes a substantial number of highly trained medical professionals and facilities, and the organ can not be explanted for long. Urban legends, and similar fiction, of organ swiping are popular because they are entertaining.

    Unfortunately, this is also the way you can verify stories of actual unethical procurement taking place in developing countries where you can find actual hospitals, doctors, and patients in the stories. There is, unfortunately, a movement to justify taking advantage of the poor by paying for kidneys. Though rumors have circulated for decades, and anonymous Internet spam claiming to sell organs can always be found, I've heard of only two actual cases of verified payment for kidney procurement in the US. Almost all the stories of unethical organ procurement in the US are false, and the verified stories of criminals prosecuted confirm that the laws regulating organ transplantation in the US are enforced.

    Unfortunately, fiction and ghoulish rumors is usally the only information about organ transplant most people receive, or remember. This directly produces decreased support for organ donation, and decreased numbers of children, women, and men of all ages and incomes whose lives could have been saved if only more people were aware.

    A good source for facts about organ donation is UNOS: http://www.unos.org/inTheNews/factSheets.asp

    September 1, 2009 at 2:25 pm |
  6. Donna Wood, Lil' Tennessee

    Yuk! Sounds way Frankensteinish to me. When I saw this piece that was the first thing I thought of. Better tell these guys they better watch out what they put into whom or they may come up with a real Monster! Sorry, just a thought. Kinda goes along with our health care plan though, doesn't it? Where do they come from you ask? Why they come from that cemetary that got robbed a while back of course! Sorry Eliza! I just feel kinda smartypantsish today. Don't mind me!

    Donna Wood
    Lexington, Tennessee

    September 1, 2009 at 2:15 pm |
  7. VITA ZEMAITIS

    Illegal body parts in U.S. – where do they come from, from which countries? I have read that in China it's big business. Executions of prisoners can make body parts to be sold and exported. How then are they shipped? Some body parts or organs may be diseased. It's a risky business.
    But some transplants in U.S. are done legally, so how are they obtained? What are the regulations?

    September 1, 2009 at 12:40 pm |
  8. Michelle Johnson, Lomita, CA

    The Dugard case is interesting, but replaced relevant news, like CIA and interrogation, and Lockerbie case, which last night were given only a minute in The Bulletin. Look forward to the illegal body parts story. Tone and presentation of AC360 coverage is rather sensational lately. It's well-done, lively, and holds the attention; I'm just wondering if it's all accurate reporting. But I enjoy watching it!

    September 1, 2009 at 12:30 pm |
  9. Michelle D . Fonthill. Ont

    Good Morning Eliza

    I can't fathom what happened to Jaycee it's all too horrible .I can't understand how he kept her for so long and no one knew or turned a blind eye to it all . I pray for her and her family as she reconnects with them after all this time . The wilfires are still burning Claifornia is having a tough enough time weith the economy how can they rebulid their homes now now i hope the insurance companies help them.

    Thanks for the buzz
    Michelle D.

    September 1, 2009 at 10:57 am |
  10. Mike

    "Illegal kidney transplants can be big business in the United States."

    I note the qualifier "can be". In other words, you have no evidence, but you just know that it is, and it makes a sensational story sure to boost ratings. So you have two cases, one more than what's been in the news recently. Presumably you have real names and evidence for the other. You have a surgeon who knows someone who claims he runs a brisk black market that he can't tell anyone about. I'm guessing that your 1,600 number is similarly friend of a friend.

    This is not harmless. People will die because of the totally false impression you're giving that organ transplantation is ghoulish and corrupt. Ultimately the sensational story won't help you either as people realize what poor journalism they're being given.

    September 1, 2009 at 10:51 am |
  11. Kim

    Illegal body parts for sell and who says our current health system isn't broken ? How long are people waiting and dying that need a new organ to live ?

    September 1, 2009 at 10:42 am |