September 2nd, 2009
06:46 PM ET

$100,000 buys patient new kidney but not good health

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/09/02/organ.brokers/art.kidney.father.jpg caption="Yechezekel Nagauker in a Chinese hospital where he got a kidney transplant after paying $100,000."]

Drew Griffin and David Fitzpatrick
CNN Special Investigations Unit

In a dank Tel Aviv hospital room, you can see at a glance just how desperate some Israelis are for a new kidney.

In one bed, Ricki Shai's mother lies practically unresponsive. Her diabetes is slowly killing her. It already has forced the amputation of both of her legs.

Sitting in a bed beside her is Shai's father, Yechezekel Nagauker, also a diabetic. But he decided, his daughter says, not to wait for a kidney donor.

"My father didn't want to be like my mother," Shai told CNN.

In April, Nagauker cut a deal with a kidney broker who promised him a new life and a new kidney for $100,000. It was available only in China, the donor said.

"The broker went to him and suggested that he become a new man. 'Come with me. Two days, $100,000, and two days you will be a new man,'" Shai said.

Today, Shai calls the broker "the killer."

Nagauker's body is rejecting the new kidney.

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soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Mariam

    Thank you so much for investigating this global story. In many countries young teenagers are kidnapped for their kidneys and other body parts. For example, in Afghanistan teenagers are kidnapped from the streets and taken to private hospitals. They are kept prisoners until their surgeries in basements.Some are never seem again. My source for this a friend's son who was kidnapped but escaped at night. His story is horrible. (I am from Afghansitan) This is a huge global black market. It is happening everywhere. A very small percentage sell their organs, others have no choice. Thank you so much for investigating and I am looking forward to learning more. Thank you CNN!!

    September 3, 2009 at 12:34 pm |
  2. Basia Christ

    Good morning.

    I am in the process of becoming an altruistic kidney donor at UCLA. My testing starts next week (9/11). I am doing this because I believe we are all brothers and sisters and should share what God has given to us. I want to be the change I want to see in the world, as Ghandi said, and inspire others to do the same. There are more than 77,000 people on the kidney donor waiting list; more than 4,000 die each year waiting...waiting...waiting.

    I also am going through hard times, living from paycheck to paycheck, behind in my bills, as most Americans are. I am appalled someone would sell their organs, but I can understand how needing the money would make someone do it. And if my child needed a kidney and I had the money, I would do anything in my means to save her and his life.

    September 3, 2009 at 11:42 am |
  3. Lynn

    It is so sad to read about this. My sister recently had a kidney transplant from what is known as a cadaver donar the person had died suddenly and their family donated their organs. Everyday we thank God for that families decision, and we pray for the person who died and for the family to heal. My parents and brother are both diabetic and I was not a match. There are so many who will not sign up to be organ donars because they think that they will be allowed to die so that their organs can be harvested. This is not so. Also, the people who are selling these organs are not telling people about all of the processes that you must go through to find a match. There is blood testing, tissue testing, etc. you cannot just have someone "give/sell" an organ to be transplanted. It is so sad that people are having to die for this to come to light.

    September 3, 2009 at 10:54 am |
  4. L

    One of the reasons some of these patients wait longer for organs is because in part, people who are non compliant with their transplant medications the first time around and who return to dialysis are rewarded with their bad behavior with secondary transplants.

    September 3, 2009 at 10:37 am |
  5. Nicolas

    Organs are never "donated" in China. A long list of indications, gathered by independent investigators David Matas ( a Canadian human rights lawyer) and David Kilgour (former Secretary of State in Canada) amounts to strong evidence that, for several years now, large numbers of illegally incarcerated practitioners of the Falun Gong meditation practice are being slaughtered for their organs, which are sold, like in the case of this unfortunate patient, for booming profit. This "black market" is in the hands of the Chinese Communist regime. Patients should be aware of this, and understand that with providing "demand" to the "supply" in China, they effectively consent to killing someone to save their own life. Note that the only "crime" these victims committed is to persevere to practice their belief, which is completely peaceful and based on truthfulness, benevolence, and forbearance.

    September 3, 2009 at 7:44 am |
  6. Sayini, PH.D.

    There is an underground market for human organs worldwide. The middle men normally contact potential clients via the internet. There are actually sites where people can post organs for sale. A meeting is then arranged if the client appears willing to go through with the procedure. People who agree to sell their organs may consider selling a liver in order to renovate the house. Poor families desperate to send a son or daughter to the university might be equally tempted.

    One man said he was doing it to purchase a home for relatives back in Pakistan. Even though buying and selling organs is illegal in most countries, there is a thriving black market worldwide.

    Bizarre though it seems, organ selling has become the way-to-get-ahead for some people. In poorer nations such as the Philippines, Togo and Bangladesh there is a large market in human organs. In China it has a sinister aspect!

    The authorities have been accused of harvesting the organs of prisoners. Some of the organs were taken from executed prisoners. There is a big demand for organs. In the UK – National Health Service records show that more than 8,000 Brits are waiting for organ transplants. Fewer than 3,000 procedures are carried out each year. The need is now high in the US. I guess finally it's a person's choice, but you have to wonder how the removal of an organ affects the long-term health prognosis. A surgeon, who was asked about this said there is one in 3,000 chance of a person who donates a kidney dying after the operation. For a liver it is one in 200. There is also an ethical concern when the poor begin to feel pressured to sell organs in order to simply survive. Unfortunately in many countries the lack of enforcement means that these transactions can take place with very little official scrutiny.

    Personally I would rather be poor and all in one piece!!

    Saint Louis, MO

    September 3, 2009 at 1:43 am |
  7. Randy Small

    What a horrendous practice! I would encourage CNN and Anderson to tread carefully and to support the legal, ethical and altruistic act of living and deceased organ donation. Like Beverly above, many people would be willing to GIVE their kidney to another to help save their lives and those people are truly heroes in every sense of the word. Deceased donation gives people back their ordinary lives through the extraordinary act of signing up with your local Organ & Tissue organization (find them at donatelife.net or DMV/DOL).

    Paying for organs is a heinous thing to most of us, and is against the law in the United States, but it shows the desperate lengths that some will go to to gain their second chance at life. I would think, though, that the second chance would be sullied somewhat by the method resorted to. Who do you then owe for your second chance? Your bank account and some immoral, criminal "broker"? With altruistic donation you know it was truly the Gift of Life and the donor is held in high esteem by the hospital, the organ procurement organization, and most of all by the recipients!

    I know a lot about how important altruistic organ donation can be: I have the heart of a hero and it's not the one I was born with! A young woman named Kate from Homer, Alaska was generous and caring enough that she signed her donor card (then used in Alaska) so that when her time was over, someone else might have a chance to live. That was 5 years ago for me and the 6 other people she helped save by her courageous and generous act..

    My girlfriend's a heart recipient, too (1 year out) and while it took 4 hearts for us to find each other our respective donor's legacy is the only thing that allowed us to ever meet. How cool is that?

    Miracles do happen – One organ & tissue donor can help save or enhance the lives of up to 50 people! Be a hero, register today to be a donor.

    September 3, 2009 at 1:27 am |
  8. Douglas Jolliffe

    I am a healthy 45 year old male. I would be happy to donate a kidney for this individual. I would consider it an honor as a person to give a better life to someone who needs it.

    September 3, 2009 at 1:06 am |
  9. Gary Chapman

    I do not see the problem with one "selling" one's body parts. How can we defend one's right to privacy with regards to procedures like abortion, but yet tell someone that they can't do what they want with their own body. I see the need for some level of oversight related to this practice but people should be able to do what they want with their own person. I would have no problem selling a body part if I thought it was the right thing to do not only for myself but for the person to whom I was helping.

    September 3, 2009 at 12:40 am |
  10. Trina

    I donated my left kidney 3 years ago and I'm still having troubles. It zaps your energy and slows you down. I was supposed to have a small 3 to 4 inch incision below my navel and wound up with a large 8 or 9 inch incision running vertically from my breast bone to about 1 1/2 inches below my navel. And 3 – 1 to 1 1/2 inch smaller incisions on my lower left abdomen. It's not pretty at all especially for a woman. I had to have this same large incision reopened to repair my multiple hernia's last year and now I need to have it done again. My cousin's (who was the recipient), insurance paid for the transplant for him and for my 6 day stay at the hospital. They also paid for my hernia surgery last year but I was treated as an outpatient and not allowed to stay in the hospital for more than a few hours. Even though my surgeon wanted to keep me due to the large incision, he changed his mind after the surgery. The donner does get the crappy end of the stick and is forgotten after it's over. I have to have kidney function blood test once a year for the rest of my life and I pay for that. My cousin is doing great and I don't regret donating to him but I'm not happy with the treatment that I received and I don't know if his insurance will cover my next hernia surgery. I think I'd rather have my own insurance cover it.

    September 2, 2009 at 11:38 pm |
  11. Jon

    As a person who waited over six years for a kidney transplant , i do understand the desire to seek out a kidney for yourself. Every year the list for organ transplants rises while the number of people donating isn't. So i do think that some things do need to change.

    September 2, 2009 at 11:02 pm |
  12. Beverly

    Secret harvesting of body parts via the black market is disgusting yet understandable in a world of supply and demand. I would love to be able to donate a kidney for my brother but cannot due to my own history of cancer. Look at all the people on transplant lists for years just hoping and waiting for that day that they don't have to undergo hemodyalysis three times a week every week for years. I have heard that each dyalysis treatment is approx. $5000.00!
    Anderson, go into these dyalysis clinics, talk to these people, and hear their stories! It is not a pretty sight, nor an uncomplicated procedure. Insurance companies will pay out if you are a kidney recipient, but ask your insurance company what their policy is on covering your medical needs as a potential kidney donor; probably not covered. Just another "glitch" in the healthcare system. In my opinion, the donor program itself needs a lot of reform.

    September 2, 2009 at 12:50 pm |