The Hidden Stories of Organ Donors

by Valentina Bischof, Muriel Widmer and Severin Landolt
Organ donation, a global issue with far-reaching consequences. Not only does organ donation impact people’s health, it also affects their social environment. To save a life you simultaneously have to end another one. The following three documentaries follow the life stories of people affected by organ donation in different parts of the world. They shine a light on stories otherwise untold.

Kidney Valley

Nepal is a country where people live barely at the poverty line. In one village, located in the so called Kidney Valley one person in every household has sold an organ. Not only does it impact a person’s health, but also its social network. Often they get banished or bullied by the other villagers. Furthermore, the documentary does not draw an exact line between a victim and an involved agent. Sometimes both are to find in the same person. This film takes an up close look at the things which come with a donation, not just the donation itself.

On the Trail of the Illicit International Organ Trade 

The documentary focuses on organ trafficking from impoverished Eastern European to wealthy Western European countries. It shows the life stories from people fallen victim to organ traffickers. Poverty forces people to sell their kidney to feed their families. Contrary to their hopes this worsens the downward spiral of poverty, because they have even more trouble working and making a living because of health problems. The way forward mentioned is through radical actions taken by many countries to raise the availability of organs that can be harvested legally from braindead patients. This would counteract the illegal organ trafficking.

Between Life and Death

The documentary Between Life and Death depicts the organ market in China which has the second highest amount of organ transplantations in the world. As hospitals offer to find suitable organs within weeks, independent investigators started research about the origin those organs. Government officials confirmed that the live organ donor bank consists of prisoners facing death penalty. However, numbers of prisoners do not seem to match the increasing amount of transplantations. A Chinese reporter stated that China is persecuting and detaining Falun Gong practitioners Falun Gong is a spiritual practice whose organs then are harvested in detention centers and military facilities. A moral framework for this practice is given by the Supreme Court and various Chinese ministries as they legally defined organs of political prisoners which are enemies of the states as industrial raw material. Falun Gong practitioners talking about their experiences in prison said that they were not treated as human beings and had to undergo regular medical testing and torture. It is also mentioned that organ transplantations is often the most lucrative source of income of hospitals. However, the communist regime denies any allegations and tries to cover up the whole affair.

In a nutshell

In light of these documentaries, one can see that organ donation is not an issue associated with particular regions of the world. Despite the fact that the people and their stories were told in different places they remain the same. Their stories are permeated by poverty, desperation and deception. Their hope for a better life soon turns into a downward spiral that cannot be easily escaped.

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