Help and Support
Welcome to this information page about organ trafficking and the risks of selling an organ.
This page is for information purposes. If you are in immediate danger, please contact the emergency services in Turkey on 112.
If you need support from an organisation please contact SGDD-ASAM (Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants) for free confidential help and advice available in different languages (translators available) on weekdays between 9.00-12.30 and 13.30-17.30.
The main purpose of SGDD-ASAM is to find solutions to the problems faced by refugees and asylum seekers living in Turkey, to help them meet their basic needs, and to provide support in their access to basic rights and services. You can get counselling on health, education, social and legal issues by phone or by applying to the Offices on weekdays. We have two offices in Istanbul, in Beyoğlu and Fatih Districts. Since its establishment, SGDD-ASAM has also provided psychosocial support to refugees and asylum seekers from neighboring countries or conflict zones in order to serve this purpose. In addition, it aims to draw the attention of relevant authorities to the problems of refugees and asylum seekers by conducting awareness-raising activities.
People who sell an organ face many risks, including:
This page includes the following sections
A short video explaining organ trafficking and the associated risks
Summary of the issue and overview of the web page
- Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to common questions asked by people considering selling an organ
- Case Studies
Testimonies from people who have sold an organ
- Lies and Truth
Examples of the common misconceptions about organ trafficking and the truth revealed
- Share Your Story
Information about how to make an anonymous report via the STOP APP
This 1-minute video provides an overview of organ trafficking and the risks individuals face when agreeing to undergo the procedure. Please be reassured that this video does not contain any graphic scenes of the surgery or aftermath.
By knowing what others have experienced and how brokers work, you can understand the risks and be equipped with knowledge so you can make an informed choice about your future.
The quotes throughout this page are taken from a book titled ‘Trading Life Organ Trafficking, Illicit Networks, and Exploitation’ by Seán Columb. All names have been changed to protect identities.
Across the world, people experience poverty, unemployment, debt or forced migration. If you are experiencing financial worries, you may be considering options you wouldn’t usually think about due to an urgent need for money.
You may receive an offer of a large sum of money for an organ. It might be tempting to trust someone who makes you this offer. This person may reassure you that the procedure is painless, and the recovery fast. Their offer may seem the solution to your financial problems. Unfortunately, this isn’t always true.
You may find yourself in a worse situation, with devastating long lasting consequences.
There are many dangers to selling an organ, which can result in harm. Selling an organ is illegal in most countries, and may cause long-term problems to your health and finances. Scams are common, and it’s likely you will be paid significantly less than the amount agreed, if at all.
Misinformation exists online about the organ trade. For example, there are scams that charge €50 for consultations for anyone considering selling an organ. This is not legitimate and a way to deceive you and steal money from you. Regardless of whether the organ transplantation is legal or illegal, you should never be asked to pay a ‘medically interested’ fee, or similar, to show your interest in the procedure or cover administration costs. If you are asked to pay a fee, this is a strong indicator that you are being exploited or scammed.
Read more for answers to frequently asked questions and to know what others have experienced.
Frequently Asked Questions
Organ trafficking involves removing a part of the body, commonly a kidney, to sell for profit.
It is a surgical procedure that removes organs or tissues for reuse, typically for organ transplantation.
Other organs that can be removed are a lobe of the liver or a cornea (the eyes.) Organ traffickers sometimes forcibly remove organs without consent or through coercing you with false promises of a large payment. Organ trafficking can affect people of all genders and various ages.
The procedure could cost you your life.
Even if the seller agrees, believing it is a seemingly consensual agreement and the economic option of a last resort, this is still an exploitative arrangement.
Often the seller is not told the full truth of the arrangement.
The following sections contain further information about the risk of scams and long term health problems.
People may hear through an acquaintance or a member of their community that selling an organ is an easy way to make money.
Unfortunately, this person is likely to be part of the Organ Trafficking network.
Gangs and brokers involved with organ trafficking exchange information about people. Their targets are people they know are experiencing difficulties, as they will likely be more open to persuasion. They often pay people from the target’s own community to convince them to sell an organ.
Brokers will try and convince the potential seller to go through with the procedure after a period of persistent solicitation. Hiba, a woman who was convinced to sell her kidney, describes how they are relentless in their pursuit.
They made efforts try to reassure Hiba the process is painless without any health repercussions.
Brokers often tell lies about the surgery to manipulate people into agreement. People who have sold their organs shared the lies they were told. You can read the examples of these lies at the bottom of this page.
Click here to jump to the end of the page.
The operations that organ sellers have are extremely dangerous procedures. Some organ sellers die during surgery.
Prior to agreeing to sell an organ, it’s imperative to be screened fully for suitability. This includes tissue and blood tests, x-rays and scans to determine your suitability to donate and to be matched with a recipient. It is important that these pre-operative tests ensure the person is fit for surgery. This should include a thorough anaesthetic pre-assessment and access to the person’s respiratory history, to ensure the person is well enough to be under anaesthetic during the procedure.
Administering anaesthetic to a person with undetected, underlying health problems can put the individual at risk of serious health complications.
If there is an undiagnosed cancer or an infection like Hepatitis, there could also be a risk to the recipient.
This is an important part of being prepared for surgery. If this does not happen your health could be at risk, and you could experience complications.
Risky medical procedure
Many organ sellers say they were compelled to consider risky medical procedures, carried out with little or no oversight, despite having no possibility of support or justice should they be subject to any harm, medical or otherwise.
Following the procedure, the health of the organ seller is not a priority for the brokers.
Sellers rarely receive sufficient aftercare following surgery.
This is a quote from a BBC News interview with an organ broker, who confirmed there is little concern for the seller following the procedure.
Brokers often provide accommodation after surgery. The main reason is not aftercare, but to keep the seller in a controlled space to limit the risk of police attention and/or to further exploit sellers for profit.
Organ sellers have reported lack of care received following surgery.
Medical care post-surgery is often unavailable for sellers, increasing risks of long-term problems, even death. Without correct aftercare, the wound can become infected, which can lead to more serious, long term health complications. Sellers usually have to pay for their own medical care post-surgery, causing more financial problems.
Even if an organ seller recovers in the short term, the effect on long term health can be far more damaging. Removing an organ without proper medical supervision and aftercare can take years off the seller’s life.
Selling an organ can have serious short-term and long-term health implications.
Some people may be willing to take the risk to their health for the financial prospect. However, the sale rarely leads to long-term economic benefit as sellers often experience such a decline in health, they are unable to work again.
If you are deciding whether to go through with this procedure, please consider the risks and detrimental impact it could have on your future.
Payment is not guaranteed.
In most reported cases, the sellers experienced the following:
The seller may receive full payment. However, many have reported that they spent the money within a few months, which meant they had to return to work. However, most sellers are unable to sustain or find employment following the surgery due to ill health, causing new financial burdens.
Even if payment is received, the seller risks this information being shared with criminal networks, which can put them in danger. A market vendor in Cairo recounted a story of a Sudanese woman who was murdered by a group of men he described as ‘the mafia’:
“I don’t know if this woman was promised anything for her kidney, but days after she had the operation some people came into her house took all her money and killed her…. This mafia, they don’t care what happens to you after they have your kidney.” – Market Seller.
Sellers report that whilst they were paid the full amount, the money was stolen from them shortly after the procedure. Such thefts are likely to occur as a result of information about the seller being shared within criminal networks. Such robberies are likely to be set up by the broker themselves, to reclaim the money paid to the seller.
The large sum of money offered for an organ may seem a solution to financial difficulties. Unfortunately, this isn’t always true and can often cause worse problems in the future.
Many people who changed their mind about the procedure endured threats and intimidation from brokers.
When asked about this in an interview, a broker replied
“They cannot change their mind. This is not an option. Once they agree, it is done.”
Brokers are motivated by financial gain. They are unscrupulous and will resort to threats, violence and whatever it takes to get what they want.
When considering such an offer be aware of the dangerous world you are entering into, from which there is rarely an easy exit route.
29 year old Mohamed was homeless when offered $10,000 for his kidney. Shortly after the operation, the money he was paid was stolen from him. He was left with nothing.
27-year-old Omar was living in Khartoum when he was offered work in Cairo, an offer which transpired to be false. Omar was forced to re-pay the middle-man the supposed ‘high cost’ involved in arranging his travel documents and passport. After threats and violence, the gang told Omar he could sell them his kidney to repay the debt.
Following the procedure, Omar was paid and taken to an apartment for recovery. However, when he went to sleep, the gang took everything: his money, passport, and the papers from the operation.
“I feel too much shame; I cannot go back home now. I am finding it difficult to work.” – Omar
Hiba, a single mother with two children, was relentlessly pursued for months by brokers, until she eventually relented and “agreed” to sell her kidney.
When Hiba arrived at the clinic, one of the medical staff informed Hiba she would receive E£40,000 [about $2,500] significantly less than the $40,000 that she had been promised. Hiba did not accept this and refused to go through with the procedure. However, she was prevented from leaving the hospital.
The doctor gave Hiba anaesthetic, and the kidney was removed. The broker gave her E£40,000 [about $2,500] and asked her to leave. Hiba spent most of the money staying at a hotel and never told anyone what happened.
Dawitt was 16 years old when an acquaintance suggested he sell a kidney in Cairo. He was offered $5,000 for the surgery and would use the money to fund onward travel to Europe.
After surgery, Dawitt was taken to an apartment for recovery and received an envelope with $2,000. The broker promised to pay the remaining $3,000 once he had recovered from the surgery. Instead, the broker paid a smuggler, who would facilitate Dawitt’s journey to Italy. The broker connected Dawitt to the smuggler with no assurances as to when, or if, the boat would depart.
When Dawitt recovered and felt strong enough to make the journey, the broker and the smuggler disappeared. Dawitt was left with nothing.
Lies and Truth
Organ sellers shared some of the lies they were told, with the aim of helping others to avoid the same deceit.
LIE: “Your kidney will grow back”
TRUTH: Once removed, the Kidney cannot grow back.
LIE: “The surgery is very light and it won’t hurt.”
TRUTH: Anaesthetic will prevent pain during the surgery, but people have reported experiencing severe pain when awakened. Recovery from the ordeal can be long and people can be left with lifelong pain and health problems.
LIE: “You can live a normal life with one kidney.”
TRUTH: Sellers are not necessarily being lied to, but they are not fully informed. You can live a normal life with one kidney, but only if the procedure is done correctly in a sterile environment and sufficient aftercare is provided. Most people who sell an organ receive little or no aftercare and there is a serious risk of post operative infection.
Since the remaining kidney has no backup, loss of function could lead to high blood pressure, fluid retention and ultimately kidney failure. If you have a single kidney, injuring it can be a big problem as there isn’t another one to compensate. If the injury is severe and your kidney stops working completely, you would need dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive.
Most sellers are not provided with sufficient information about the procedure, so they can’t really make an informed choice. Most people suffer from fatigue and find it difficult to do manual labour. Some people suffer from infections – the risk of which is much higher in an unregulated environment.
Undergoing an organ removal procedure can have serious short-term and long-term health implications. It’s a risky procedure, and could be done by people without sufficient medical training. Removing an organ without proper medical supervision and aftercare can be highly damaging to the seller’s long-term health.
LIE: “When you sell, you will get big money. You can send some money to your family, and you and your family can live a good life, when you have the money.”
TRUTH: Even if full payment is received, it rarely results in a ‘good life.’ Many sellers who received the payment say it was spent within 3-5 months and they were unable to maintain future employment due to health problems incurred by the surgery.
“After three months all the money was finished. Now, I feel tired most of the time, and I cannot do any heavy work.” – Organ Seller.
Some people who were paid the full amount reported the money was stolen from them soon after the surgery. In most cases, the seller was paid significantly less than agreed. In some cases, the seller did not receive any payment for the organ.
LIE: “You will meet the recipient of your organ.”
TRUTH: Many people who have sold their organs expressed that it was important to them to meet the recipient of their organ and had been assured by the brokers that the meeting would take place. However, most people said this never happened and they did not meet the recipient. Many sellers said this caused them emotional distress.
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Share Your Story
We want to understand organ trafficking as much as we can to support those most vulnerable to it and raise awareness of its prevalence.
Can you help us to do that?
The STOP APP enables anyone who has:
- experienced organ trafficking
- been approached by someone offering to buy their organ
- heard or seen something about organ trafficking
to securely and anonymously make a report this through the STOP APP.
There will be no record of the report submitted on your phone. Please make sure you are in safe place away from the suspected incident when making the report.
STOP THE TRAFFIK is a human trafficking prevention organisation. The STOP APP collects individuals’ stories of global human trafficking to disrupt and prevent this crime. We are not a rescue organisation and this app is not monitored 24/7. If anyone is in immediate danger or a crime has been committed, please contact trusted authorities