Doco reveals horrors of body parts trade

  • 12/04/2013

A Canadian documentary maker is in New Zealand to publicise the horrors of a flourishing trade in body parts.

The organisers of a film festival have paid for her to come, but it is what is being paid for in her film that is so disturbing.

Every year thousands of Filipino men are forced to sell their kidneys to survive.

"We have no one to help, us we have no family," says one donor.  "We are both orphans."

Filmmaker Ric Esther Bienstock says the black market for organs - particularly kidneys - is on the rise.

"When people are desperate to live they'll do desperate things," she says. 

"At the same time there are absolutely poverty stricken people who are so desperate that they're willing to give up an organ because they need the cash. So you have this desperation on one side to live and the impoverished on the other side, and that's a deadly combination."

Over three years she followed families at the bottom of the transplant list.

"If I can't find a donor in this country I have to decide whether I'm willing to take on my soul the ethical burden of purchasing a kidney from somebody, or to die," says Walter Rassbach.  "That is really the choice I'm facing."

The documentary poses the ethical question - if both sides benefit, what is the problem?

"You can't condemn a guy who goes overseas to save his own life," says Ms Bienstock, "even though he's doing something illegal."

Ms Beinstock says people in New Zealand face the same dilemma.

"New Zealand has the exact some problems that we do in Canada and the United States and Europe," she says.

"The organ donation rate in New Zealand is very low. There's a lot of people on the waiting list."

In New Zealand there are 100 to 120 organ transplants a year, and people wait on average around five years for a transplant.

No exact numbers exist, but it is thought half-a-dozen New Zealanders have paid for a kidney overseas in the last decade.

Between 10 and 15 percent of all transplants worldwide are illegal.  There have been large-scale busts of doctors who carry out the operations.

Turkey's Dr Yousef Sonmez is known as "Dr Vulture" for his part in carrying out thousands of transplants. He is wanted by Interpol, but says as long as the waiting lists in the West continue to grow the East will keep carrying out the operations.

"The black market is by definition bad," says Ms Bienstock. 

"There is no protection for anyone.  I was less sure of my views when I filmed, and when people watch the film people will be more unsure of their own ethics."

Audiences can make up their minds when the documentary is screened on Sunday. 

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source: newshub archive