05/12/2008, 00.00
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Vietnamese poor sell kidneys to rich Chinese

The organ is sold for about 4,000 dollars. Selling it is a crime in Vietnam, but everything takes place in neighbouring China. And some risk death through botched transplants.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews/ Agencies) - In communist Vietnam, the poor and desperate are going to China to sell a kidney.  And some of the sellers, like To Cong Luan, find themselves risking their lives.

The state newspaper Viet Nam News recounts that Luan, a 22 year-old student at the technical-industrial high-school in the capital, regularly sold blood to the local blood bank.  But his girlfriend was pregnant, and the money was no longer enough.  So when he heard that he could sell a kidney for 70 million dong (about 4,375 dollars) in China, in December he crossed the border with Guangdong.  He returned to Vietnam two months later, in a vegetative state.  While he was recovering in the Cho Ray hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, the doctors observed that the numerous incisions on his abdomen demonstrated that the transplant had been performed incompetently.  Because they can do nothing, his family brought him back home (in the photo), possibly to die.

But the selling of kidneys is common: Nguyen Thi Thuy, another regular seller of blood and the owner of a small coffee shop, recounts that Luan went to China with four other persons: three returned immediately after the removal of the kidney, and "are in good health and have a large sum of money in exchange", while in addition to what happened to Luan, one woman did not even return.

According to Vietnam's health minister, there are between five and six thousand patients waiting for a kidney transplant in the country, and in 2007 only 158 transplants could be conducted.  The selling of organs is a crime.  But if the seller goes to neighbouring China, it is very difficult to apply Vietnamese law to the buyer and to the surgeons.

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