New book unravels the world’s black market in human body parts

October 21, 2011

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(Courtesy of Scott Carney)
This cache of stolen bones was confiscated from the banks of a river in Purbasthali, India.
(Courtesy of Scott Carney)
Witnesses say that this building in Kolkata, India was a center of the black market in bones since the 1984 ban.
(Courtesy of Scott Carney)
Sivagama and Nageshwar Rao hold photos of their son, kidnapped from Chennai, India in 1999. Police say he's now in Wisconsin.

In the face of mounting poverty and inequality, individuals around the world are forced to make some extreme decisions. Many sound familiar: children quit school to support their family. Migrants cross dangerous borders in search of jobs, and so on.

According to Scott Carney, the poor are resorting to another, often gruesome way of making money. Increasingly, they sell organs and blood on the black market. It's not uncommon, for example, for men to exchange their kidneys for petty cash or for village women to act as cheap surrogates for wealthier, would be mothers in the West.

These transactions aren't always voluntary. Low-level brokers are known to kidnap strangers off the street and forcibly drain their blood to sell to local hospitals.

For the past six years, Scott Carney has researched these underground economies. We talk to him about his book The Red Market: On the Trail of the World's Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers, and Child Traffickers.