Kidneys are being freely traded on the Internet which is functioning as a medium for sellers and the organ brokers who are gaining huge profits. Internet sites are flooded with people who want to make extra money by offering their kidneys, which can be sold for 40,000 yuan ($5,900) to 60,000 yuan.
Two major online forums www.02066.com.cn and www.as.2sun.cn, are operating for organ brokers in dozens of cities across the country, including Beijing, Tianjin, Zhengzhou and Shangqiu in Henan province, Hangzhou in Zhejiang province, Dongguan in Guangdong province, Changchun in Jilin province and Hefei in Anhui province.
More than 1 million people need kidney transplants every year in China but only 1 percent of them undergo the surgery because of the nation's organ shortage, according to official statistics. Experts say four out of every five patients die while waiting for a suitable match.
Humans are born with two kidneys, but a person is able to live normally with only one.
Ministry of Health officials said the trade in human kidneys is illegal, and pointed to the creation of a new database that has been designed to make organs available to the approximately 1 million Chinese waiting for transplants. The database began as a pilot project in some areas, including Shanghai, in September.
A broker named Xiao Wei in Beijing said the market needs kidneys from people with A, B, and O blood types. Sellers need to undergo medical testing to prove they are healthy. Fees for physical tests and surgeries are covered by the brokers.
However, the purchasers usually have to pay brokers 130,000 yuan for one kidney.
"We have connections with hospitals and doctors, so sellers will be safe during and after the surgery," Xiao told China Daily yesterday.
Almost all of their transplants in Beijing are done in top hospitals with organ transplant licenses. The purchasers can decide where to have the surgery, he said.
An agent surnamed Liu in Xingtai, Hebei province, said he can arrange kidney transplants for foreign patients as well. "I did it for several foreigners and whatever we do will go undetected," Liu said.
A 27-year-old man said online in August that he intended to sell his kidney to save his brother's life. "I needed money but I was not able to get 100,000 yuan in a few days," he said. "I heard it's OK with my body to cut out one of my kidneys, so I decided to do it."
People who suffer from kidney failure need another kidney that is healthy and matches their blood type.
Chen Shi, a professor in medicine at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, said the illegal trade must be banned to protect people's rights.
"Organ donations should be greatly encouraged to solve the organ shortage nationwide," he said.