In a world where trying to receive a kidney transplant can take up to three to five years for even the most dire of situations, it is no surprise that individuals have turned to faster and sketchier alternatives. The question is not whether the black market is dangerous or if it is even trustworthy, since those can and have been easily answered. The question lies in whether it is worth it. For patients suffering and waiting, is the black market a reliable and sustainable option? Is it enough to ignore the moral and ethical dilemmas at hand?

The black market is seemingly a very simple concept, goods or services are sold ,whether in person or online, just like any other market or business. The illegal obtaining or the overall illegal nature of the good or service is what makes the market black. The Shadow Market, which it is also heavily referred to as, can deal with situations as large as human trafficking or as small as paying your teenage neighbor under the table for things like babysitting or yard work when they want a little extra cash. While that seems like an extreme, when an individual is not paying employment fees the transaction becomes illegal, therefore falling under the large umbrella of the black market. So overall, the Black Market seems like a scary place, not somewhere someone would want to end up, but when push comes to shove is it a viable option?

A large reason for the endless wait lists is a simple system of supply and demand. More individuals need hearts, livers and kidneys then are being harvested. According to the Gift of Life Donor Organization, “About 36,000 Americans receive a life-saving transplant each year1“. While this sounds like an extraordinary number it leaves out more than 100,000 individuals still left on the waiting list nationwide. And these statistics lie solely in the United States, where the shadow market is much smaller than other countries, only representing 5.4% of the country’s gross domestic product. Compared to the number one country, Greece, with 21.5% of the gross domestic product being from the black market2. This is a nation wide dilemma that deals with the moral and ethical pursuits to obtain the organs that are traded as well as the exploitation of the desperate individuals who acquire said organs.

One of the darkest aspects of organ harvesting and trafficking is the means in which organs are collected. There are typically three ways that organs end up on the Black Market. The first being deception to those who are giving up their organs. The second and the most effective way to obtain organs to sell is through offering a set amount of money to people who donate and either never paying them or paying them much less than promised. The third and arguably the most unethical being tricking vulnerable individuals such as poor or homeless men and women into allowing them to treat an ailment, whether it exists or not. Through this treatment their organs are collecting without the individual’s knowledge. Throughout all techniques to obtaining these organs there are many similarities.

This is not where the cruelty ends. The Black Market can charge up to 200,000 dollars in high earning countries for a single organ. This exploitation of scared and vulnerable individuals is only part of the deceit and dangers of the Black Market. Even despite the cautionary tales and the absolute illegalness of the black market, it is unarguably a thriving business. Within the long chain of individuals it takes to have a single transaction it is incredibly rare for anyone to get caught and the pay outcome is tremendous for these individuals, but countries are trying to stop this phenomenon. In 1984 the selling of organs was banned under the National Organ Transplant Act, but since then only one individual has been prosecuted and convicted3.

The Shadow Market has and always will be tied with negative connotations but looking at it from the perspective of someone on that 100,000 name transplant list it can look extremely desirable.


1 “Get The Facts” Gift of Life Donor Program.

2 “The Illegal Black Market Continues to Grow Worldwide.” Point Park University Online, May 26, 2021.

3 Johnson, Chad. “Organ Trafficking: More than Just a Myth.” S.J. Quinney College of Law. Utah Law, August 12, 2020.


Bain, Christina, Joseph Mari, and Advisor: Dr. Francis L. Delmonico. “Organ Trafficking: The Unseen Form of Human Trafficking.” ACAMS Today, July 31, 2018.

Gift of Life Donor Program. “ Get the Facts”.

“The Illegal Black Market Continues to Grow Worldwide.” Point Park University Online, May 26, 2021.

Johnson, Chad. “Organ Trafficking: More than Just a Myth.” S.J. Quinney College of Law. Utah Law, August 12, 2020.

MacDonald, Fiona. “This Is How Much Your Body Is Worth.” ScienceAlert. Accessed October 12, 2021.

“Organ Donation Statistics .” Organ donation statistics. Heath Resources and Service Administration. Accessed October 12, 2021.

Taylor, J S. “Black Markets, Transplant Kidneys and Interpersonal Coercion.” Journal of medical ethics. BMJ Group, December 2006.