This Fabulous Gucci Bag Bought Someone’s Kidney

Well, not exactly. As you have doubtless read by now, a bunch of harredi rabbis and some schmuck New Jersey politicians were nabbed in a massive money-laundering/organ selling scheme last week.  (will I stop buying them? No). Explained below:

Boy, New Yorker web editor Blake Eskin must be chowing some serious humble pie right now. Every week, he interviews just one of the magazine’s mega-watt writers about a project of paramount importance. Then, last week, just three short days after he posted a lengthy interview with Larissa MacFarquhar discussing her article about, a sort of kidney-donor dating site, the feds up and bust one of the biggest organ-buying schemes in history right in the New Yorker’s back yard.

I’m telling you, the whole masthead probably was probably kicking itself in the collective pants over the worst-timed article ever. In case you missed the piece, it’s a look at altruism through the lives of people who become living donors, giving their kidneys away to total strangers. A week ago, we might have called them selfless. Today we’d call them shmucks.

Here’s poor Larissa MacFarquhar pouring weeks if not months of her life into a story she believes has the potential to help the 4,500 Americans who die ever year waiting for cadaver kidneys, and bam!, the worst PR disaster ever to hit living donation wipes her clean off the map. It’s rabbis! And Gucci purses! And Moldova! (That’s Europe’s poorest country, in case you weren’t paying attention).

And here you thought the only kidney for sale in Borough Park was in your Jerusalem Mix shawarma. Maybe if those couture industry-reps had done their homework last year, we’d know piracy actually funds international organ-rackets, not terrorism.

As Kevin Drum points out, there are some strong arguements on both ends of the kidney-for-compensation debte. In so much as you buy the arguement, “matchmaker” Rabbi Levy Izhack Rosenbaum and the 43 other people indicted on charges of brokering other people’s insides were just ahead of the curve. You know, legally.

As someone with chronically suboptimal kidney function and an incurable love of knockoff designer bags, I was disappointed. There’s an international kidney-selling racket running out of my old stomping grounds and all I got was this Chinatown purse…but the bigger disappointment is obviously for donor-matching advocates like my friend Jessica (who studied with Dr. Nancy Schlepper-Hughes, the UC Berkeley anthropologist who tipped the feds to Rosenbaum six years ago) and the thousands of people waiting for a life-saving donation that may never come. What’s clear, even for poor Larissa MacFarquhar, is that matchmaking is still trickier than it seems.



Filed under 3rd World Imagineering

2 responses to “This Fabulous Gucci Bag Bought Someone’s Kidney

  1. scorp1234

    We all should be committed to an open and honest discussion of the issues related to organ donation.

    If you believe that organ donation is the right choice for you, you have to agree that there are serious flaws in the way the system is operated. We feel it is a grave injustice to encourage people to donate their bodies for the benefit of others, but refuse to pay just compensation to the donor and their family. This is a $20 billion a year industry built on the backs of real people who have suffered severe economic hardship, not to mention the loss of a loved one.

    We think that should a family make the supreme gift of love and life, the hospital should make sure the last thing that happens is that the donor’s family is billed for any final medical expenses. A few simple changes to the current system would increase dramatically the amount of cadaver organs donated and put these criminals out of business forever.

    Check out for more information about the current state of the organ harvesting industry and your rights under the law.

    • 3rdworldimagineer

      I agree. there’s far too little discussion of our organs going on period. there’s a lot of complex psychology that goes into donating, not to mention the medical expense (which is often not covered for the person making the donation). I recently filled out my online donor card at CA Donate Life . I decided strangers could have my liver, but not my eyes. It was a lot harder to do than I expected, and probably a lot harder than it ought to be. And that’s for when I’m dead. Live donation, with all our squeemishness and moral confusion, will likely be even harder to amend, which doesn’t mean reform isn’t long overdue.

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