Saturday 18 December 2010

Black markets

The predictable result of banning legal trade in organs. Instead of having legitimate markets with organs of verifiable provenance, we have this:
Citing evidence from witnesses, the draft report says the KLA network maintained bases to keep scores of captives, select them for the suitability of organ harvesting and later killed some of them to extract organs from mid-1999 to mid-2000.

"In the months directly after the declared end of the Kosovo conflict in June 1999, members and affiliates of the KLA purportedly delivered scores of persons they had abducted into secret detention on Albanian territory," Marty's report said.

Evidence suggested, Marty added, that the organisers used safe locations in Kukes on the Kosovo border, the Mat region further south, and at Fushe-Kruje near the international airport. The location in Fushe-Kruje was specially built.

"It constituted a state-of-the-art reception centre for the organised crime of organ trafficking. It was styled as a makeshift operating clinic, and it was the site at which some of the captives held by KLA members and affiliates had their kidneys removed against their will," Marty's report said.

Age, sex, state of health and ethnicity, with mostly Serbs targeted, determined the selection.

"Some of these captives are said to have pleaded with their captors to be spared the fate of being 'chopped into pieces'," Marty said, citing source testimonies his team had obtained.

"The testimonies on which we based our findings spoke credibly and consistently of a methodology by which all of the captives were killed, usually by a gunshot to the head, before being operated on to remove one or more of their organs."

Then they shipped them to overseas clinics, part of an international black market in organ-trafficking for transplants.
And I'll guess that a majority of folks reading the story would see it as a reason not to allow trade in organs rather than one of the reasons we really ought to consider it.


  1. "And I'll guess that a majority of folks reading the story would see it as a reason not to allow trade in organs rather than one of the reasons we really ought to consider it."

    Exactly. I'm always baffled when people object to organ markets with the "criminals would murder people and harvest their organs" line, because this is precisely the argument for legal trade in organs.

    It is only under prohibition that the price of organs is high enough that criminals are willing to risk the costs of organ harvesting. If there was a legitimate market, supply goes up, price goes down, and criminal organ harvesting would be wiped out because it would no longer be profitable.

  2. Economics is so counter intuitive that most people just can't get their heads around the concept of making something like this legal...

  3. There is a 'moral' dimension here that cant be ignored. The concept of a trade - legal or illegal - in organs is perceived by many to be immoral. Yeah, ok, what the KLA might have done is clearly also immoral, but I doubt that voters will agree to allow businesses in organs. They see this as a problem that arises during conflict, or in third world countries, not in civilised Western style developed democracies.

    People seem more willing to accept technological solutions, than trade based ones.

    Just saying is all


  4. @Michael, Horace, yes.

    @Hristos: Roth's work on repugnant markets is instructive. But we've gotten over other highly inefficient beliefs before: we used to think life insurance was repugnant as a way of betting on death. The more we can do to point out the efficiency costs of holding a belief that trade should be banned as repugnant, the better the chances of getting the change in policy that saves lives.

    Hit the "organ markets" tab above...

  5. @Hristos

    I think the moral dimension cuts in favor of organ markets: Yes, trade in organs is repugnant. But the alternative (organ harvesting) is much, much worse.

    Of course, people don't like facing difficult tradeoffs.