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21 Oct 2018 5:46
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  •   Home > News > International

    Kidneys for sale: Cash-strapped Indonesians turn to Facebook to sell organs

    For those in need of a kidney transplant in Indonesia, medical experts say Facebook is proving more effective than official organ registries when it comes to finding donors.

    For those in need of a kidney transplant in Indonesia, medical experts say Facebook is proving more effective than official organ registries when it comes to finding donors.

    The Indonesian Dialysis Community (KPCDI) estimates around 150,000 patients are suffering from kidney failure in Indonesia.

    Chairman Tony Samosir told the ABC that while selling organs is against the law, the black market is the only hope for the vast majority of patients.

    "It's easy to get offers of commercial kidney organs on the internet, there are even certain groups of kidney donor brokers on social media," he said.

    "It's like general trade, people openly sell their kidneys to pay off debts, medical expenses, start a business … No money, no kidney."

    Mr Samosir said prices range from 100 to 350 million rupiah ($9,270 to $32,430) or even into the billions of rupiah in some cases.

    'Even if I have to die, I don't mind'

    A search on Facebook revealed more than 30 accounts acting as a mediator for those looking to sell their organs — some even featured kidney auctions for interested recipients.

    "I'm 19 years old and I really need money to cover medical treatment for my dad who had a stroke," one poster wrote on Facebook.

    "My mom is also sick and we need to pay our debt. Please help us by buying my kidney."

    "I really want to make my wife and my daughter happy so they can buy things, so please help me," read another post.

    "Even if I have to die, I don't mind as long as they are happy. Please contact me."

    Others posts listed heavy debts and the need to provide for a young family as reasons for the sale.

    "The reason why I want to sell [my kidney] is because I want to pay my massive debt. I don't want to lose my family," Adi, who posted his kidney offer on Facebook, told the ABC, adding that the debt accumulated after he borrowed money for his wedding.

    In his post he said he wants to clear his debt so he can be "a father figure" to his three-month-old son.

    "There have been a couple of people contacting me with enquires but no serious offers," Adi said. He is hoping to get around $5,000.

    Push to introduce 'opt-out' laws on organ harvesting

    Indonesia has a very low organ donation rate according to the Global Observatory on Donation and Transplantation — at the same time, kidney failure imposes the second largest cost to Indonesia's healthcare system after heart disease.

    Tony Samosir says his organisation is lobbying for the establishment of a National Transplant Committee to work towards increasing kidney donations.

    "If we want to donate blood, we know we have to go to Indonesian Red Cross, if we want to donate our cornea, we go to the eye bank," he said.

    "But if we want to donate our kidney or other organs, where do you go? If there was a committee, we could boost people's awareness and campaign about kidney donating."

    There has also been a recent push to update Indonesian law to establish an "opt-out" system on organ donation — allowing organs to be harvested from anyone who does not register as a non-donor.

    "In the Philippines, if there are accident victims, unidentified bodies or victims of crime, within six hours doctors can take their corneas without needing approval because of their opt-out system," said Tjahjono Gondowiardjo, the head of Indonesia's Eye Bank Institution.

    "In Singapore also, all their citizens are organ donors unless they object or opt-out. We don't have such a law."

    But Health Ministry spokesman Budi Sampurno said this system was not an option for Indonesia.

    "A hard opt-out system that presumes all their citizen to have consented to organ donation regardless of their or their family's wishes can actually be considered violating human rights, and it is only applied by autocratic countries such as Singapore," he said.

    However Mr Sampurno said a new donor registry system would be put in place soon, allowing willing donors to be assessed for eligibility, verified and registered.

    © 2018 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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