Carney, Scott M. The Red Market: On the trail of the world’s organ brokers, bone thieves, blood farmers and child traffickers. William Morrow, 2011.
The first urban legend that I ever heard was about a bathtub filled with ice and two missing kidneys. In the 40 years since, I have never met anyone who lost their body parts after a night of drinking, even though the demand for them is higher now than at any other time in history.
In his new book, The Red Market, investigative reporter Scott Carney shows that besides kidneys, spare parts in high demand include the heart, liver, ligaments, corneas, plasma, ova, and hair. Whole bodies are needed for the adoption and medical cadaver industries. Economic markets are used to supply bodies and their parts, which have become commodities that are bought and sold every day. Billions of dollars of human flesh changes hands each year.
Journalist Carney travels the world as he investigates what has gone wrong with the supply side of the system of body procurement and tissue harvesting. Under this system, donors cannot be paid for their contributions and must remain anonymous for reasons of medical privacy. Yet the recipients pay thousands of dollars for the flesh. The supply chain of middlemen profits handsomely from the exchanges, producing unsavory implications, such as the transfer of health and strength from destitute donors to wealthy recipients.
While the book contains harrowing stories about exploitation of people in third world nations, most of the book is a thoughtful treatment about the ethical issues in the economic exchange of human flesh. If you consider that each human life is precious and equal, then you must conclude that the market is not the best way to allocate health and well-being. This well-written book is engaging and thought provoking to the end.
© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
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