Disturbing organs trade in Italy

The struggle for cash is taking a sinister turn in Italy, as hundreds of desperate people are prepared to sell their own organs to raise money for their families.

The shop windows of the streets of central Rome – among the most famous shopping passages in Europe – are showing off their merchandise, but hide the reality of the economic crisis that is forcing many to desperate measures.

The crisis-stricken people of Italy are being forced to sell their cars, homes and businesses. But for many, even that is not enough. And the metaphorical cost of an arm and a leg has become a gruesome reality, as people exploit one of the darkest demands of the black market.

A typical announcement over the web sounds like this “I am a 48-year-old craftsman and father of three little girls. My job no longer brings in enough money. I need at least 50,000 euros to cover my debts. I am willing to sell a kidney, or a part of my liver. Help me, I pray of you.”

This story is one of many, as Italy's leading daily La Repubblica found out. Hundreds of ads can be found in blogs where Italians offer their organs as a last resort.

Despite the fact that selling organs is illegal in Italy, the trade is growing.

“We never knew there was an illegal offer for organs, in exchange for money. It’s a symptom of the economic situation, which is very dark. And we did not realize – our institution did not realize – that the situation is really this bad,” says Maurizio Torrealta, an investigative journalist for RAI 24.

But doctors across the country are convinced such a level of sales is simply impossible.

“There are many people who think they could sell parts of their body and they offer that, as it was described in the paper, and I agree with the journalists that this phenomenon is increasing, and probably is somehow connected with the crisis. But these are only proposals,” Alessandro Nanni Costa, chief surgeon of the National Transplant Centre stresses.

Doctors are coming across such cases more and more frequently.

“We receive mails twice a week, from people offering to sell us their organs, which are clearly illegal proposals. But these are people who need to be helped, since they are trying to do something which is impossible in Italy,” explains Alessandro Nanni Costa.

This is why willing donors travel to Eastern European countries like Bulgaria and Romania or sometimes, Israel and the Palestine to get the surgery done.

And with a kidney fetching up to €30,000, the supply of people willing to go to this black market as a way out of their financial troubles looks set to increase.

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