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The Red Market: On the Trail of the World's Organ Brokers, Bone Theives, Blood Farmers, and Child Traffickers Hardcover – May 31, 2011
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"Carney writes with a novelist's eye for character and detail and a muckraking reporter's gift for asking uncomfortable questions about stuff that most of us shy away from learning too much about." (Cory Doctorow, editor at BoingBoing.net)
"Downright hallucinatory" - Laura Miller, Salon
"[A] lucid and alarming book . . . . Carney knows how to tell a story and digs deeply. --The Wall Street Journal
Mr. Carney writes with considerable narrative verve, slamming home the misery of what he has witnessed with passion and visceral detail. - New York Times
The Red Market is a reminder that there are some problems that science alone cannot solve. --Nature
From the Back Cover
An in-depth report that takes readers on a shocking tour through a macabre global underworld where organs, bones, and live people are bought and sold on the red market
Investigative journalist Scott Carney has spent five years on the ground tracing the lucrative and deeply secretive trade in human bodies and body parts—a vast hidden economy known as the "red market." From the horrifying to the ridiculous, he discovers its varied forms: an Indian village nicknamed "Kidneyvakkam" because most of its residents have sold their kidneys for cash; unscrupulous grave robbers who steal human bones from cemeteries, morgues, and funeral pyres for anatomical skeletons used in Western medical schools and labs; an ancient temple that makes money selling the hair of its devotees to wig makers in America—to the tune of $6 million annually.
The Red Market reveals the rise, fall, and resurgence of this multibillion-dollar underground trade through history, from early medical study and modern universities to poverty-ravaged Eurasian villages and high-tech Western labs; from body snatchers and surrogate mothers to skeleton dealers and the poor who sell body parts to survive. While local and international law enforcement have cracked down on the market, advances in science have increased the demand for human tissue—ligaments, kidneys, even rented space in women's wombs—leaving little room to consider the ethical dilemmas inherent in the flesh-and-blood trade. At turns tragic, voyeuristic, and thought-provoking, The Red Market is an eye-opening, surreal look at a little-known global industry and its implications for all our lives.
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This is where most reviews would say something like "not for the faint of heart" or something like that and it's true. Carney has taken a very frank (and graphic) look inside the human body trade but he does so without coming off as a sensationalist. Much of his work revolves around India and China - places where poverty and overpopulation have contributed to the profiteering and exploitation of international adoption, kidney/other organ donations and fertility methods (egg harvesting/surrogacy).
I expected to be more shocked by accounts like those of an entire village of indigent women in India who saw kidney donation as their only way out of poverty (Note: it never is!) by agreeing to a small amount of money up front only to be swindled out of the additional money they were promised afterwards AND left without post-operative care. I was less shocked by these deceitful methods of procurement than I was by the attitude of the organ donation recipients: I don't care where it comes from or what it costs, just get it.
Carney has compiled his work into a quick read that poses excellent moral and ethical questions - and I believe sheds some much-needed light on a grim traffic that few here in the U.S. know or think about. I look forward to more interviews with the author about this work in the coming months.
I picked it up and was mesmerized! I know it's cliche, but I could NOT put it down! I'm a forensic anthropology student, so of course the first chapter about the bone trade fascinated, and saddened me. It's a frank, and sometimes horrific romp through the business of life (egg "donation" - for profit, and surrogacy) and death.
I truly had never thought about, or heard of these "live donations", and all the abject poverty...it was heartbreaking.
This is a thought provoking, heartbreaking, human rights conversation making book; and I, for one, am so thankful for Scott Carny and his will and desire to write such a crucial piece of literature!
The books chapters are all interesting expositions. It was hard for me to put the book down as each form of trading of the human body has elements that shock the less exposed of us to what poverty and desparation can do. The author starts with an example in the introduction of blood donation and how some academics have shown that when it is seen as a civic duty the quality of the blood is much higher than when seen as a commodity and that the giving of blood is much higher than when the business is designed through the sellign of blood, as the selling "preys" upon the needy and reduces the feel of those who want to help to feel they are as needed. This example sets the stage of how market incentives can fail for a skin business. Such ideas are included in other literature, like Michael Sandel's Justice, but it sets a nice stage.
The book continues to analyze through personal stories, many medical businesses based on the trading of the human body. The trading of organs is detailed and one sees that the supplpy side of the organs tends to come from the more desperate countries and within those countries the more desparate people. Also it is shown that the demand side of many organs is not necessarily associated with better medical outcomes and rather often stems from a desire of the medical industry for more business. It is also shown that through networks of middlement the sources of organs is easily ignored as there is no association with the sources. Much of the books chapters show similarities in how businesses are run for those surrounding the human body. For adoption, children are kidnapped, for surrogacy, the surrogates are predominantly poor and need the money, for egg donors, the chapter uses examples predominantly from Russia, for drug testing, the candidates are students, criminals and the destitute.
None of the economics of the body businesses are surprising but the message of the book is that the free market should not be the guiding principal of much of the skin business. One should ask ethical questions about whether we are looking at these in the right way. Most western countries have strict rules on most of the businesses the author delves into, but in poorer emerging countries there is a race to the bottom in who participates and the book shows that the businesses are predetorial by nature. It is definitely an interesting read, i think the only thing a bit disingenous is the authors need to focus on demonizing all the businesses (with the exeption of hair) fairly equally. I definiteyl feel there are bad aspects of all the businesses but there are massive differences between the ethics of some of them. Donating eggs for money i would put in a different camp than kidnapping a child to export for adoption (obviously). More time should have been spent on ways to better protect the disenfranchised vs just saying that poverty and desparation makes people make potentially uninformed decisions and that is evil.
Medical treatments involving blood and organs are not like taking your car for an oil change, too many take a cavalier attitude and are not aware of what happens behind the scenes to supply markets with the materials for the new human organ replacement markets. For this reason those who routinely use blood and organ products have opened a new realm of rejection issues because of not understanding that blood is as complex as any other organ and both are more than just pieces of the human anatomy that can be replaced like an automobile oil filter.
This is a great read if you are interested in what happens to support modern medical therapy in cutting edge countries.
Most recent customer reviews
It gives a great and stunning overview of how he world trades human parts (and human) and how much it worth compare to how...Read more