Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tales from the organ trade: trick or treat?

Human organs for transplantation are a desperately needed scarce resource worldwide. When any resource is scarce and desperately needed by human beings, like our thirst for oil, all sorts of things can happen. There is great potential for corruption, manipulation, irrationality, and violence, but also for some party to exact some gain, some advantage, some profit. The trade in human body parts -- bits of ourselves conventionally considered too precious to have a price -- is an bioethical conundrum custom-built for Halloween.

This time around, I did not have to reach far to find something about the global organ trade. I could look in my inbox, where lo and behold I found a message from one of HBO's publicists. HBO is screening a documentary on the global organ trade next week narrated by -- appropriately enough -- the Canadian film director David Cronenberg. As the press release goes:


This 83-minute documentary explores the legal, moral and ethical issues involved in the complex life-and-death drama or organ trafficking. More than a simple black-and-white story of exploitation, TALES FROM THE ORGAN TRADE is a nuanced and complex film that challenges moral and ethical beliefs. It delves into a world where “villains” often save lives and the medical establishment, helpless to its own rules and bureaucracy, too often watches people die. In the best scenario, victims walk away content and safe, and buyers of organs (the recipients) return home with a new lease on life. From Manila to Istanbul, Colorado to Kosovo, Toronto to Tel Aviv, this film spotlights a compelling cast whom fate has brought together, where the gift of life meets the shadow of death.

Tales of the Organ Trade airs Monday, November 4th on HBO as part of its HBO Documentary Fall Films Series at 9pm EST. And no, HBO is not giving me a red cent for plugging their business. It just looks like something that might be worth watching.

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