Date: December 2012
Location: Kosovo, Turkey, Israel
Distributor: Al Jazeera English (December 2012) – 24 min.
Credits: directed, filmed & edited by Claudio von Planta
Reporter: Juliana Ruhfus

THE ORGAN TRADERS is an investigation into illegal human organ trading in Kosovo, Turkey and Israel, and the challenges facing law enforcers.

Background Information:

Organ trafficking is a growing phenomenon on a global scale. Current organ transplant operations only cover about 10% of the all patients on transplant waiting lists.

In 2010 the World Health Organization estimated that 107,000 transplant operations took place. Kidney transplantations alone counted for 73,000 and up to 10% of those are most likely illegal operations.

Rich patients with little or no chance to get kidneys through official transplant waiting lists, pay between US$ 100,000 to US$ 250,000 to organ traffickers who buy kidneys for US$ 5,000 to US$ 20,000 from poor and vulnerable people. The demand is growing, the profits are staggering and business is booming.

Rogue surgeons are the key players in the organ trafficking trade but, astonishingly, they always manage to evade justice. So far, not a single surgeon got imprisoned for illegal organ transplant operations.

With our film we wanted to find out why law enforcement against organ trafficking and especially against rogue surgeons doesn’t seem to work.

We decided to look into one of the most extreme cases and followed the story of Dr. Yusuf Sonmez, a Turkish surgeon, dubbed Dr. Frankenstein, who claims to have executed over 4000 kidney transplant operations from living donors.
Solutions beyond Law Enforcement:

Looking beyond our film, the question is whether organ trafficking could be curbed by other means than just policing. Various countries experiment with promising options:

1) Every country should make efforts to reach self-sufficiency in organ donations because the reduction in transplant waiting lists will automatically lead to less demand on the black market.

2) The promotion of a healthier lifestyle will reduce organ failures.

3) Transparent ‘community’ based transplant solutions will work better than the ‘individual approach’ driven by private health entrepreneurs in search of maximizing their profits.

4) Introducing legislation based on ‘presumed consent’ will make it easier to use organs from diseased donors who died in accidents. People who don’t want to donate would have to opt out but the majority of the community would automatically be part of a donation scheme.

5) Encouraging voluntary donations between living donor/recipient pairs and facilitating the exchange of matching organs within bigger groups of non-related donor/recipient pairs. Transplants from living donors are the safest and the most successful procedures.
Useful links for further Information:

Transplantation Society (NGO in official relation with the WHO):

Transplantation Guiding Principles:
Hopefully this report will contribute to a better understanding of a complex and important issue.


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