MOSCOW, September 9, 2003 ( – Organ donation is causing more ethicists to worry about abuses.

Ten years ago, rumours circulated that homeless people in Brazil were being used as involuntary organ farms, but the stories were difficult to substantiate. More recently debates over the exact nature of “brain death” have highlighted the very real dangers of exploiting vulnerable patients in the effort to provide organs in what has become an extremely lucrative trade.

The Courier Mail reports that surgeons in Russia are removing kidneys from homeless people in illegal organ-harvesting operations.

The spare parts are worth as much as $40,000 US each.

Speaking anonymously one of the surgeons said that in general the donors “are done for anyway, maybe they could live another three or four days.”

The Courier Mail report should not be taken in isolation. The organ donation business is becoming problematic all over the world.

Dr. John Shea, medical advisor to Campaign Life Coalition, said that he is not surprised. “The less dead a person is, the better,” he said, for purposes of organ harvesting.

The practice now is to have the attending physician in a trauma ward make a decision against continuing life-saving efforts, shut off the respirator and remove organs as soon as possible after even a simple head trauma, he said.

“Let’s not blame the Russians, this is going on in Canada and the United states under new protocols for ‘non-heart-beating’ organ donation. The patient does not even have to be brain dead. The term ‘brain death’ is useless anyway no-one ever knew what it meant, now it is being ignored,” said Shea.

See also:

Ethical Implications of Non-Heart-Beating Organ Donation by Nancy Valko, RN