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A Chinese teen went to extreme lengths, selling a kidney to pay for the expensive iPad 2 he lusted for.  (Source: The Oatmeal)

The hospital where the kidney was removed claimed it contracted the offices where the surgery was performed to a businessman whose identity they were unsure of. Thus the case has essentially hit a dead end.  (Source: Asia Insider)

In China, Apple gadgets are status symbols among teenagers.  (Source: Simon Blog)
You're buying it wrong?

A Chinese teen has made headlines due to the lengths he went to obtain Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) latest and greatest gadget, the iPad 2 tablet.

I. "I Want The One With the Bigger GBs!"

"I wanted to buy an iPad 2, but I didn't have the money," recalls a 17-year old boy identified only by his surname, "Zheng".

But without a college degree, Zheng's prospects weren't looking great.  Average wages in major Chinese cities range from 1,000 to 5,000 RMB (CN¥).  Zheng would like fall on the low end, making between 1,000 and 1,500 RMB.  At the current going exchange rate of 500 RMB to $77.13 USD, it would take the young man several months to get the slick device.

So he made a shocking decision that brings to mind a legendary webcomic from the comic/satire blog The Oatmeal -- he decided to sell an organ for the Apple device.  He recalls, "When I surfed the internet I found an advert posted online by agent saying they were able to pay RMB20,000 to buy a kidney."

Sneaking out of his home, the youth traveled north to the city of Chenzhou in Hunan Province.  Visiting a local hospital, he had his kidney removed.  He was hospitalized for three days then discharged, with 22,000 RMB (appr. $3,394 USD) in hand.  He used the money to reportedly buy his iPad as well as a MacBook and iPhone.

He tried to conceal his new gains from his mother, but she grew suspicious when she saw the Apple gadgets.  Experiencing medical complications, the young man confessed what he did.  States his mother, identified as "Miss Liu", "When he came back, he had a laptop and a new Apple handset. I wanted to know how he had got so much money and he finally confessed that he had sold one of his kidneys."

Shocked Miss Liu took her son to the Chenzhou police to report that he was the victim of a crime.  But the agents whom Zheng had brokered the deal with had vanished, their cell phones dead.  And the hospital claimed it contracted out its urology department to a private businessman.  It denied knowledge of the businessman's identity or the surgeries he was performing.  It appears the case has now been closed, due to lack of evidence.

II. Case Brings to Light Illicit Organ Trade

The irony of the incident is rather great, given that Apple CEO Steven P. Jobs is himself an organ donor recipient, having received a replacement liver after experiencing complications from his battle with pancreatic cancer.

What makes the incident even more sad and ironic is that Zheng's organ is unlikely to go to one of his many countrymen that need it.  It is estimated that a million people in China need a transplant every year, but less than 10,000 receive organs.  

While some locals are able to purchase organs on the black market, many black market organs instead go to foreign "transplant tourists".  A report in the Japanese media last year claimed that foreigners were paying in excess of $80,000 USD for black market transplants in China.  At that price most Chinese simply cannot afford the potentially life-saving transplant (the yearly income of blue-collar workers in China is around $6,000 USD).

III. Apple Demand: A Double Edged Sword For China

Older citizens in China have seized upon the news story as example of how China has lost its communist ways to the "evils" of unregulated capitalism.  Writes one commenter on Hong Kong's Phoenix TV website, "This is a failure of education, the first purpose of which is to 'propagate morality'. This teenager's stupid behaviour is a manifestation of his radically materialistic values."

Another commenter chimes in, "To sell a kidney in order to buy consumer goods? What vanity! It is undeniable that modern Chinese teenagers' morality is declining. This is something we must all think about."

In China Apple devices are often more expensive then they are in the U.S.  The gadgets are increasingly coveted by youth as status symbols.  The high demand among teens for the devices has led to many other issues, including fights outside Beijing Apple stores during the recent launch of the iPad 2 and white iPhone 4.

The international demand for Apple products has been a double-edged sword for China economically.  While it has created a large number of jobs at manufacturing facilities, Apple's demands of cheaper contracts than its rivals and higher quality have led factories to force tens of thousands of Chinese to slave away long hours in what some say amounts to "sweatshop" conditions.  A recent internal audit from Apple revealed numerous abuses of workers at Chinese plants that contribute to the company's gadgets.



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RE: I find nothing wrong...
By JasonMick (blog) on 6/2/2011 12:58:30 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
With being able to sell one of your organs. If I could sell a kidney for 60k, I probably would.


That'd be a pretty bad decision. Given the expense to your health you'd probably lose far more than you gained.

Supposedly you only "need" one kidney, but that presuming a best case scenario. Lo and behold if you drink alcohol, ingest a toxin, eat too much calcium for a few months, etc. and injure your sole remaining kidney reducing its function.

It's normal for humans to sustain a small amount of kidney damage due to their diverse diet. That's part of why we have two kidneys. If we only needed one, evolution would have long ago selected one kidney individuals as it's energetically expensive to grow/sustain organs.


RE: I find nothing wrong...
By BladeVenom on 6/2/11, Rating: -1
RE: I find nothing wrong...
By JasonMick (blog) on 6/2/2011 1:33:39 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
Everything I've seen says that donating a kidney doesn't affect life expectancy.

There's a lack of conclusive research on the topic, based on my reading...
quote:
If something damages a kidney, it usually damages both of them, so having 2 doesn't mean you have a spare.

Exactly, but the kidney is a highly fractal organ, with multiple renal capsules.

Typically in physiological kidney conditions, like kidney stones, certain renal capsules/vasculature will be damaged, but the entire organ won't be destroyed.

My point is that maybe you only need one kidney best case scenario, but our body has two as it's designed for redundancy.

As our environment creates minor damage to both kidneys, we still have sufficient filtering, thanks to our body's natural overcapacity.

It's a smart design -- which is undone when you remove your "spare" kidney.

To save a loved one it's worth it absolutely, but to sell your organ for money is just stupid.


RE: I find nothing wrong...
By AssBall on 6/2/2011 3:27:28 PM , Rating: 2
depends how poor you are and how much money you can make off it

But for 99% of the population, you are right. And this kid got ripped off big time.


RE: I find nothing wrong...
By senbassador on 6/2/2011 7:13:56 PM , Rating: 2
Well, the reason why we have 2 kidneys (and two of a lot of organs) in the first place is the result of thousands of years of evolution, predating even primates. For whatever reason (and I am not a biologist), animals that had two kidneys were significantly more likely to pass on their genes than animals that had only one. And as far as I am concerned, if its good enough for my ancient ancestors, its good enough for me. As much as I can use an extra $60k, I think I'll pass.


RE: I find nothing wrong...
By Balleroes on 6/4/2011 3:20:29 AM , Rating: 2
Well, the reason why we have 2 kidneys (and two of a lot of organs) in the first place is the result of thousands of years of evolution, predating even primates. For whatever reason (and I am not a biologist), animals that had two kidneys were significantly more likely to get an Ipad than animals that had only one. And as far as I am concerned, if its good enough for my ancient ancestors, its good enough for me. As much as I can use an extra lifetime, i think i will rather get an Ipad.


RE: I find nothing wrong...
By Reclaimer77 on 6/3/2011 12:37:55 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
If we only needed one, evolution would have long ago selected one kidney individuals as it's energetically expensive to grow/sustain organs.


More people die from heart disease than kidney failure. I wonder when we'll evolve to have two of those...hmmmm.


RE: I find nothing wrong...
By Ben6821 on 6/4/2011 4:35:53 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
That's part of why we have two kidneys. If we only needed one, evolution would have long ago selected one kidney individuals as it's energetically expensive to grow/sustain organs.


I see statements like this quite a bit regarding evolution and I don't believe it reflects a proper understanding of the theory. As background, note that permanent genetic changes do NOT happen in response to the environment. They happen at random (i.e. mutations). The environment "selects" among existing organisms, but it has no direct role in creating new organisms.

Now if two kidneys provided a tangible advantage within the context of the environmental conditions of the time, we could argue humans with two kidneys had an advantage at that time , but this statement does not go as far as you think.

I am having difficulty stating the problem clearly, so I will give you an example. Suppose all humans are blind and have one kidney. Suppose a new generation simultaneously developed sight and two kidneys (this is unlikely but possible, even typical). Suppose the second kidney was not needed, and was even harmful because of the energy expense. Two kidneys would persist anyway because that generation also developed sight, which far outweighed the cost of another kidney.

We may see other considerations arise. For example, the same organ may be helpful in some circumstances, and harmful in others, and it need not be true that evolution would force the right number of kidneys at the right time. Conditions may change quickly and evolution may not keep up. The idea that evolution must occur as an incremental series of small improvements is a myth.

The evolution-based argument is not as strong as you think. The following conditions would have to be true:
1) Two kidneys arose within an environment where they were beneficial.
2) The above environment is similar to our current environment (e.g. climate, diet, food availability, medical care, etc...)
3) When two kidneys arose, they were a dominant factor in survival (as compared with other factors such as physical ability, location, intelligence, etc..). This is necessary to prove that evolution "selected" two kidneys because they were beneficial.
4) We assume that if two kidneys had not been beneficial, evolution would have eventually selected just one kidney even if it took a long time. This requires that a single kidney mutation occur at a time when it provided a compelling advantage over two kidneys, and that the single kidney mutation didn't arise simultaneously with major handicaps, forcing this generation to die out.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.... Bottom line, it need not be true that two kidneys are better than one because we happen to have two right now.


"Death Is Very Likely The Single Best Invention Of Life" -- Steve Jobs














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