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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sean Kelly

Hot Docs 2013: My Thoughts on Tales from the Organ Trade

Tales_From_The_Organ_Trade

There are people all over the world, who are desperate in need of a new organ to survive.  However, there is not enough supply to meet the demand and there are people who end up waiting years for a qualified donor to appear.  As such, some people go to extreme measures and spend thousands of dollars to purchase new organs for themselves.  Directed by Ric Esther Bienstock and narrated by David Cronenberg, Tales from the Organ Trade takes a look into the world of organ black markets and how there are many shades of grey when it comes to organ donation.

When people are in need of organ donations, they often find themselves waiting for years on donor lists.  Mary Jo in Toronto has been waiting for a new kidney for nearly a decade and has been keeping herself alive with a dialysis machine, which she fears will eventually cause her body to deteriorate.  In another case, Walter has been on the donor list for two years and fears that he would be dead in less than a decade if he doesn’t find a kidney.  Eventually, some people become so desperate that they are willing to mortgage their house and buy organs.  This is what a man named Raul did, which resulted in him being put right in the middle of an investigation of one of the world’s most infamous organ trafficking rings.

One of the the prime focuses of the film is the case of the Medicus clinic in Kosovo, where many illegal organ transplants were preformed by the Turkish Dr. Sonmez, who was given names like “Dr. Vulture” and “the Turkish Frankenstein” by the media and he is one of Europe’s most wanted men.  They key point of this investigation is whether or not the organs used with stolen, as accused, or given by willing donors.  Raul, who received a new kidney from Sonmez, showed absolutely no regret about his decision, even after authorities included him in their investigations.  Some of the key figures of this case are located and interviewed and it is quite interesting what they have to say.

There is a very high organ trade in the Philippines, especially within the Quezon province.  The main motivation for people in the Philippines selling their organs is to help them get out of poverty.  Of course, there is a downside to this.  One individual in the film found out that he had a diseased kidney after donating and now required a donor himself.  Since the kidney was likely diseased beforehand, it would likely caused problems for the unknowing recipient.  It is definitely quite sad that so many people in the Philippines have to resort to this route to get money.  Even sadder is the fact that the black market dealers have many prospective clients and can switch to someone else without notice.

The film also tackles the subject of altruistic donors, who voluntarily donate organs to people in need.  There are some who are calling for a government regulated system, which will help compensate such donors.  However, as soon as money becomes involved, the ethics of organ donations becomes much more complicated, which is why such transactions are considered illegal.  Thankfully, a “one in a million” altruistic donor leads to a happy ending for one of the subjects of the film.

Over, I thought that Tales from the Organ Trade brought up some very interesting issues when it came to organ donations.  There definitely needs to be a better way to find organ donors, so perspective recipients don’t find themselves waiting on a list for nearly a decade.  Authorities constantly going after organ trafficking rings end up doing nothing in the long run, expect drive the black market further underground.  If people are allowed to willing donate their organs and get compensated for doing so, it might help to put an end to this problem.

 9 | REALLY LIKED IT

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).