In a previous note, I discussed kidney transplantation in the Philippines where it is very common for the organ donor to be living and compensated for the organ (see: The Facebook Effect on Organ Donations; Trafficking in Donor Kidneys). Paying living kidney donors has now become widespread in Eastern Europe, stimulated and promoted by advertisements on the web (see: Black Market for Body Parts Spreads Among the Poor in Europe). There is a Wikipedia page on this topic (see: Organ trade). Below is an excerpt from the news article cited above:
Facing grinding poverty, some Europeans are seeking to sell their kidneys, lungs, bone marrow or corneas....This phenomenon is relatively new in Serbia, a nation that has been battered by war and is grappling with the financial crisis that has swept the Continent. The spread of illegal organ sales into Europe, where they are gaining momentum, has been abetted by the Internet, a global shortage of organs for transplants and, in some cases, unscrupulous traffickers ready to exploit the economic misery. In Spain, Italy, Greece and Russia, advertisements by people peddling organs — as well as hair, sperm and breast milk — have turned up on the Internet, with asking prices for lungs as high as $250,000. In late May, the Israeli police detained 10 members of an international crime ring suspected of organ trafficking in Europe, European Union law enforcement officials said. The officials said the suspects had targeted impoverished people in Moldova, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus....The main supply countries have traditionally been China, India, Brazil and the Philippines. But experts say Europeans are increasingly vulnerable. An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 kidneys are illegally sold globally each year, according to Organs Watch....The World Health Organization estimates that only 10 percent of global needs for organ transplantation are being met. Nancy Scheper-Hughes, the director of Organs Watch [web site under construction] and a professor of medical anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, said the attempt by poor Europeans to sell their organs was reminiscent of the period after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when chronic joblessness created a new breed of willing sellers. Trade in organs in Serbia is illegal and punishable by up to 10 years in prison. But that is not deterring the people of Doljevac, a poor municipality of 19,000 people in southern Serbia, where the government refused an attempt by residents to register a local agency to sell their organs and blood abroad for profit.
Israel seems to crop up periodically in the news in relationship to organ donation (see: Organ transplantation in Israel):
According to organ trade expert Nancy Scheper-Hughes of Organ Watch (in 2001), Israel had become a "pariah" in the organ transplant world. The lack of donations due to Jewish custom heightened the disparity between the supply and demand of organs. This led to the popularity of "transplant tourism" in which patients in need of organs travel to medical centres abroad to receive organs. Prior to the 2008 law prohibiting it, some Israeli organ brokers advertised on the radio and in newspapers. Kidneys, which are the most traded organ, may fetch up to $150,000 for brokers who usually pay the donors far less....Levy Izhak Rosenbaum of Brooklyn was alleged in July 2009 to have been conspiring to arrange the sale of an Israeli citizen's kidney for $160,000 [see: Levy Izhak Rosenbaum Pleads Guilty To Selling Black Market Kidneys]. According to the complaint, Rosenbaum had said that he had been involved in the illegal sale of kidneys for 10 years.
I have the feeling based on the frequency of newspaper and blog coverage of this topic that we are reaching a kind of crescendo in interest about paid organ donor programs with more of a concerted global effort to suppress it or regulate it. This is not to say that black-market traffic in organs will not continue to exist.