Marquel, TPVs NYTimes Kidney and Spleen Section correspondent, was twirling his mustache, when he read Transplant Brokers in Israel Lure Desperate Kidney Patients to Costa Rica.http://nyti.ms/VuSPSe
Facing the prospect of impossibly long waiting lists for organs, some patients have turned to an underground trade that pairs them with people willing to sell an organ. The problems arise in Costa Rica where many Israeli buyers find the wares less attractive than they hoped.
In a side street in San Isidro, a small inland village, on market day along with the papaya and melons, two or three organ sellers hawk their goods. “Kidneys! We got kidneys! Kidneys!” Shriek the marketers. A long line of shoppers inspect the goods. Melons, tomatoes, parsley, onions, greens. But at the organs they look at the short dark skinned donors and then look away. Some squeeze the merchandise.
“Hey! Non tocca!”
A heavy set woman in her sixties says, “but how can I tell if he’s got good kidneys?” She asks.
“You can touch the kidneys, that’s all!” He answers.
She massages the boy’s waist in search of a kidney.
“How much?” She asks.
“The kidney is free. The operation is $140,000.” He says, avoiding the laws against ogan sales.
“Don’t you have any tall ones?” Asked another woman, considerably younger.
“Lady, their kidneys are huge. Don’t worry about their height.”
Another young woman spoke up, “you said there’d be cute ones. I want a cute donor.”
The owner said, “look at this one,” pushing forward an equally short but somewhat more personable looking donor.
She let her arms fall down his short frame.”that’s a bit better,” she said, “but is he kosher?”
“Lady they’re all kosher. This is Costa Rica. All organ donors here are kosher.Our clientele is exclusively Israeli. Brachamim Habaim!”
Some donors had already coupled off with patients, sitting down and signing papers.
Later in the day I heard the barker pushing a sale, “kidneys kidneys! Half price! Only two left!” He pushed forward a boy and a girl, hardly teenagers, pimply faced and scared. “They may not look like much but I guarantee their kidneys are the best in the house. Nothing like a young kidney!”
Later I traveled to the hospital down by the coast. “I saw your kidney market. It was unnerving.”
“Anything new is always likely to upset your settled expectations. We save lives here. We take poor kids and set them on a more secure course. Dying people return fit to their grandchildren. If you can criticize that you’re a hard hearted man.” The doctor told me.
“Of course I don’t object to any of that. It’s the bare commerce of it. People bidding for kidneys as if they’re slaves.” I said.
“But there’s no comparison except on the grossest level. There are no slaves. People receive agreed remuneration, even if it had to be hidden. Everyone walks away better off than when they arrived.” He said.
“One of them minus à kidney.” I said.
“You have to say that intelligently. Take me. I’ve had one kidney since birth. All of our donors are ultra carefully screened. They have health care forever, both state and private.”
“That makes a difference but how do we know they’ll always be healthy?” I asked.
“Because there is no contraindication. All the medical textbooks emphasize that only one kidney is needed. If one of our donors ever had a kidney problem he would be the first for a transplant. We are here for the long term and our reputation is all we have.” He said.
“So you’re telling me that you haven’t had any problems with donors post surgery?” I asked.
“Swear not a one certainly no medical problems. Everyone walks away happy.” He paused. All except young…” I waited. “Tomaso Calderon.”
“I knew it!” I exclaimed.
“Whoa, hold your horses,” he said, “let me tell you about Tomaso. He was a donor for a very difficult to match former Israeli General. Everything matched. Tomaso was being paid a huge amount extra. In the operating room, both bodies were on the machines, incisions made, and then the surgeon realized that Tomaso had been a donor several years earlier. If we took his only kidney he would have been on dialysis for the rest of his life. Everything had to be sewn up again, Tomaso’s kidney reconnected. I tell you that to show that people would be willing to do it again. It’s not horrible. It’s an easy arthroscopic procedure any intern can do.”
I wanted to meet Tomaso. I was sure I didn’t want to meet the general.
I walked back towards the dock and I saw the youngish lady walking hand in hand with her cutie donor. Strange just strange.
BY MARQUEL: Tradition