HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour): Here in the United States, nearly 4,000 people a year die waiting for a kidney. And while it’s illegal almost everywhere in the world to traffic in organs, there is a thriving global market. Yesterday, I spoke with Kevin Sack of The New York Times who’s been investigating the global organ trade.
So you’ve been looking at this for a year. What did you find?
KEVIN SACK: Well, we found that there’s organ trafficking really all over the world. I don’t know that there’s a country that’s necessarily immune, including the United States. We had a prosecution here a couple of years ago, the first prosecution of organ trafficking in this country.
So it happens everywhere and obviously it’s just because there’s this huge demand for kidneys. People are desperate to get these organs and to save their lives.
HARI SREENIVASAN: You focused on Israel, and you said that they actually have a disproportionate influence on the global demand. How is that? Explain.
KEVIN SACK: Well, it’s kind of remarkable but over the last 15 years, just time after time, when there have been prosecutions of organ traffickers, Israel always seems to have some role. Israelis are either the buyers or the sellers. Often they’re the brokers.
And it has a lot to do with a view among orthodox rabbis that brain death, which obviously is the optimal circumstance for organ donation, is not actually death, and as a result organ donation rates in Israel are very low and people have few places to go other than the black market.