This Is The Chilling Reality Of Organ Trafficking Right Now

by | May 12, 2017 | Health

Image supplied by Bypass movie. 

Think organ trafficking is not your issue? Think again. New local thriller, Bypass, investigates the chilling reality of organ trafficking – and it’s happening right now. 

The national Organ Donor Foundation (ODF) rolls around a campaign once every year or so, letting you know you can donate your organs. They’re often in the form of flyers, stickers, or other drive. We all nod and agree — but the issue is far bigger than what those leaflets will tell you.

Organ Trafficking Is Big Money 

Since less than 2% of South Africa’s population is on the organ donor registry, people needing life-saving organs  (the ODF estimates around 4300 adults right now are waiting) are unlikely to receive their organ. The result? A burgeoning black market right on our doorstep, where you could score an organ – at a very big cost. Shane Vermooten, director of Bypass, explores this issue in the new medical thriller – the first of its kind on the continent. In its viral guerrilla marketing campaign, Vermooten and his team distributed flyers advertising a fake hospital who would sell organs. As a result, the website, advertised on the flyers, got more than 30K hits within its first week. Vermooten was inundated with phone calls and emails asking about how they could buy organs. “The problem is big, and [the marketing campaign’s feedback] paints a picture of the scale of the problem,” says Vermooten. In 2011, it was estimated that the illicit ‘organ trade’ generated illegal profits between R8 billion and over R16 billion per year. On the black market, a heart could cost around R2 million — showing just how lucrative the industry is. 

organ trafficking

Greg Kriek and Natalie Becker in Bypass.

It Costs Valuable Lives 

Aside from the monetary cost, the illegal market trades in human lives. In South Africa, organs aren’t just harvested for transplants, but for muti too.  “[We wanted to highlight] a common misconception that black market organs are only traded in far off ‘African’ countries, when often it is taking place right under our noses in ‘legitimate’ hospitals,” says Vermooten. In his research, Vermooten came across a case in KZN where one prominent hospital chain was involved in more than 100 illegal transplants, five of which involved removing organs from minors. Vermooten read about a case in South Africa where morgues were forced to hire additional security after organs were being removed and trafficked from the facility. In some cases, family members would get postmortem reports stating that organs were missing from the deceased body, says Vermooten. Anyone could be trafficked. There’s also the idea that some lives are more valuable than others; something that traffickers use to rationalise their operations. Enter the human aspect of the film. “Myself and the writing team wanted to take a concept that we believe in; ‘Every human life is of equal worth’. We took this concept and applied it to an issue as complex and personal as organ transplantation. This movie explores a mother’s love for her dying son and makes us question how far we would go to save our own child’s life,” says Vermooten. 

The bottom line: Since the marketing for the film began, the ODF experienced a 40% spike in registries. The black market exists because there is a massive shortage of organ donors. Do your part by registering as an organ donor — it takes two minutes.

Bypass is playing at selected Ster Kinekor theatres right now. Find out more on their website

Want more? Here’s What You Need To Know About ‘Stealthing’ — The New Sexual Assault Trend, and here’s What You Really Need To Know About That New Organ In Your Body.

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