Tales from the Organ Trade (2013) Script

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(contemplative strings music)

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(dramatic piano music)

(machinery beeping) (ventilator hissing)

[Narrator] It is one of the great miracles of modern medicine, the saving of a dying patient with a transplanted body part.

But there is a worldwide shortage of organs and a surplus of poor people who believe that the solution to their suffering is not to receive an organ, but to sell one.

* Take it

* Take another little piece of my heart now, baby

* Oh, oh, break it

* Break another little bit of my heart, now darling

* Yeah, c'mon now

* Oh, have a

* Have another little piece of my heart now, baby

* You know you got it, wow

* Take it

* Take another little piece of my heart now, baby

* Oh, oh, break it

* Break another little bit of my heart

(ominous strings music)

(gulls squawking)

(traffic rumbling)

(cars honking)

(train rattling)

[Narrator] Joboy, a 44-year-old husband and father yearns to lift his family from abject poverty.

He's decided to sell one of his kidneys.

His home is a crawl space under someone else's shack.

It's too small to stand up in, and there's no electricity.


(dramatic strings music)

[Narrator] In the Philippines, like almost everywhere else on earth, selling a part of your body is illegal.

The result is a flourishing black market, run by backstreet brokers like Diane.

Like most brokers, Diane sold one of her own kidneys and served as the agent for a dozen members of her extended family when they sold theirs.

[Narrator] Diane has offered Joboy $2,500, double what he'd earn from unskilled labor in a year.

[Narrator] All they need now is someone who is desperately ill.

Every year, all over the world, thousands of people like Joboy make the same decision.

50 years ago, it wasn't possible to take one kidney from another to save a life.

Now, it's almost routine.

We are born with two.

With proper care, we can live and thrive with one.

But the demand for this organ far exceeds the supply, so many desperate patients turn to the black market where, in some countries, you can pick up a kidney for the price of a laptop.

(machinery beeping) (ventilator hissing)

(dramatic piano music)

I was diagnosed at 21 that I had kidney failure.

Generally when this happens, it happens when you're older.

Of course you go into denial and you think, "No way, this can't be happening to me."

(silverware clatters)

I'm just trying to live the life I think I would have lived if this didn't happen.

(water hissing)

[Narrator] Mary Jo has been waiting for a kidney transplant for six years.

She's kept alive on dialysis.

Dialysis, what it does is, I mean, it cleans your blood but it's not just taking out the toxins, it's taking out everything.

So, anything good that's in your body as well comes out at the same time.

So, you know, you're wiped out.

When you get off you're completely wiped out, so it, I mean, it takes its toll.

(dog barks)

Sorry Hun, I locked it.

Oh that's okay.

I've got stuff happening all the time.

I've got a three-year-old kid who's got special needs.

I've got a husband, I've got a house, I've got a career.

If I want to do the things I've always wanted to do.

I still want to travel, I want to, I want to live my life.

So this is my dialysis machine.

(dramatic piano music)

Doing dialysis is a very traumatizing experience for anybody.

It took me, I'd say at least a good year to really get used to sticking sharp needles in my arm.

(machine beeping)

You have to do dialysis every other day.

It just changes you.

It changes the way you look at things.

It changes your way of life, your perspective on things and how you would do things normally.

This one hurts.

You can't stay on this machine forever.

It doesn't do what a kidney does.

Some days I think, "God, how much longer

"am I going to have to do this?"

I would love to have a living donor if that was possible.

This is it, unless somebody offers me a kidney or unless a cadaver becomes available.

This is what keeps me alive.

(dramatic strings and piano music)

There's no point in having a bad attitude.

You put up with what you have to put up with and there's no point in complaining about it.

It's a matter of just what you have to deal with.

I'm effectively between a rock and a hard place.

If I can get a transplant in the next year or two, I will probably live another 20, 25 years.

If I, you know, don't manage to maintain my health long enough to get a transplant and they take me off the transplant list, I'll be dead in eight years, probably.

It's not living, it's existing.

So Walter, how long have you been on the transplant list already?

Almost two years.

Wow.

What do I have, probably two or three years before I probably have problems?

Currently, people that have, were put on the transplant list at the time you were, they're waiting anywhere from four to five years for a kidney to become available unless they have a living donor.

Right.

(dramatic piano music)

Patients who are on dialysis have an increased mortality.

And that mortality hasn't changed in the last 15, 20 years.

As a doctor, if you're in a clinic of a hundred people that you're treating, 20 of those people are going to die each year.

I effectively have to decide at this point whether, you know, if I can't find a donor in this country fairly soon, I have to decide whether I'm willing to take on my soul, the ethical burden of purchasing a kidney from somebody or choose to die, and that is really the choice I'm facing.

(pot clangs)

(water hissing)

Waiting for him to get to the top of the list--

Which I ain't gonna make.

Of transplant, cadaver transplants, just doesn't seem like it's gonna happen.

And you know, it's, yeah, I mean a foreign situation obviously would not be our first choice but at this point it looks like it may be our only choice.

(dramatic piano music)

[Narrator] In Toronto, Raul Fain already made the choice that Walter is considering.

He mortgaged his house, went overseas, and paid $100,000 for a kidney.

Where was this minaret, downtown?

Across from the hotel.

[Raul] Oh, here is how I look after the second day of surgery, and my muscles have disappeared and I've lost--

Oh, the muscle disappeared before the surgery.

That's what renal failure does.

Let me see this one.

Approximately 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with a kidney disease.

After about nine years, my specialist suggested that he's really not able to help me much more.

(keyboard clacking)

So I started to inquire about doing a transplant overseas.

I had one ray of sunshine that through some family members, it was transmitted to me that there was a gentleman that had this operation in Israel.

When he got the news that there may be a possibility to go out of the country, we just jumped.

[Raul] And when I contacted this person, he explained to me that the surgery does not take place in Israel.

Then it was Turkey, which I said okay.

Turkey is already, it's not a backward country.

It's modern and so on.

He also informed me that there were some problems in Turkey, and the whole operation has had to move to Kosovo.

The Turkey clinic has been closed.

We have to go to Kosovo, so whatever we were prepared for, we were not prepared for Kosovo.

(dramatic strings music)

[Narrator] Kosovo is Europe's newest country, an orphaned slice of the former Yugoslavia corroded by corruption and strangled by organized crime.

(siren wails)

When Raul traveled to Kosovo for his black market kidney transplant, he had no idea he was about to become embroiled in one of the world's most infamous organ trafficking rings, an organization now being investigated by the European Union.

(treadmill whirring)

Jonathan Ratel is a prosecutor and a veteran of trouble spots like Iraq and Afghanistan.

He has now been sent to Kosovo to crack down on organized crime and corruption.

The first case to land on his desk is the Medicus case.

The charges, trafficking in body parts, organized crime, trafficking in persons, and unlawful medical practice.

[Linda] Okay, what are the precise allegations that ground the indictment here?

There is a growing network of organ trade throughout the world, and unfortunately the source for these organs are the indigent, the poor, the vulnerable, and the persons who want this are rich, wealthy, western nations, who can pay a hundred thousand US dollars for a kidney.

And they are harvesting these organs.

That's the top-level allegation of this.

To sell an organ, it's a terrible thing.

But on the other hand, maybe it's saves your life equally how it saved my life.

We don't know, and I cannot profess to know what, for what purpose did these people did it.

You know, so that's why it can never be, you know, 100% one way and say it's bad and that's it.

(dramatic orchestral music)

[Narrator] In this clinic called Medicus, on the outskirts of Kosovo's capital, Prishtina, Raul Fain's life was saved by one of Europe's most wanted men.

One of the significant figures in this case is Dr. Yusuf Sonmez, without a doubt.

This individual is a notorious organ trafficker and has engaged in this activity in his own home country in Turkey for a long period of time.

(camera shutters clicking)

He is the surgical expertise in this case.

[Narrator] Dr. Yusuf Sonmez is one of Turkey's most accomplished transplant surgeons and a fugitive from the international police.

He performed more than 2,000 operations in Turkey and in dark corners of the former Soviet empire.

He first made headlines when he was caught on hidden camera allegedly offering a man $8,000 for his kidney.

[Narrator] His alleged practice of dealing in body parts earned him the nicknames Doctor Vulture and the Turkish Frankenstein.

Arrested six times in his own country, Sonmez escaped conviction by producing consent forms from his donors, attesting that ultimately no cash ever changed hands.

[Narrator] But now, the transplants he performed at the Medicus clinic in Kosovo, have him in the legal crosshairs once again.

He had a presence.

He could have commanded anybody in the room, and the way he imposed himself, just by his, just by his movements, just by his demeanor.

He didn't have time for small talk, although I tried to entertain a few, a few words with him, I said I read a lot about you.

To what he said, "Yeah, all the beautiful things

"about me on the Internet, and you still came?"

And I said, "Yes," (laughs) "and we still came

"because you are the only one."

[Jonathan] What really grounds this case is man's inhumanity to man.

Anywhere from 10 to 15% of all organ transplants are illegal.

This is an exploitation of the human condition that has to stop.

Obviously, I'm biased and, obviously, this particular situation helped me and saved my life.

So obviously there is, you know, I'm selfish.

But I don't see it like such a terrible thing, provided that it's done in kind of an honest way.

[Narrator] The Medicus case involves dozens of people across three continents.

Raul was one of 20 patients who traveled to Kosovo to buy a kidney in 2008.

20 people from Eastern Europe, Turkey, and Russia sold their kidneys.

The prosecution claims that Raul's transplant was performed by the surgeon Yusuf Sonmez and aided by an international cast of characters that includes another doctor, a fixer, and an exploited victim who gave up an organ.

To track the sale of a black market kidney, the production team sets out to reassemble all the player's from Raul's operation, starting with the man at the center of the Medicus case.

Amazingly, Dr. Sonmez, a fugitive from justice, wanted by Interpol, has his own website.

(keyboard clacking)

But does Dr. Frankenstein answer his emails?

(gloomy mandolin music)

(razor humming)

The Philippines was once a prime destination for foreign patients desperate to buy a kidney, but with the global crackdown on organ trafficking, it's now affluent Philippinos who drive the trade.

[Narrator] Diane gets word that a transplant is imminent.

She keeps a roster of potential organ sellers so that surgeons have a choice.

Joboy has competition.

(dramatic piano music)

Eddieboy is a 22-year-old with the same blood type as Joboy and an equal ration of poverty and hopelessness.

(baby cooing)

[Narrator] In the Philippines, like everywhere else, each donor must testify before a hospital official that they are not being coerced and that they are motivated strictly by altruism, not financial gain.

[Narrator] To prevent abuse, Philippine law requires that a donor have a relationship with the recipient.

This is the loophole that will get Diane's candidates through their interview.


[Narrator] It takes Eddieboy a while to catch on.

But Diane has too much at stake to let him fail.


[Narrator] Joboy is a quicker study.


(suspenseful strings and piano music)

[Narrator] Now, for Eddieboy and Joboy, it's just a waiting game.

(thunder rumbles)

A few days later, there's a call from the hospital.

[Narrator] Diane tells Joboy the news.

(dramatic mandolin music)


(dramatic strings and piano music)

I really think we should look at other alternatives.

Yeah, well...

[Nancy] So Laura, I appreciate that, you know, in your situation, you don't really feel that you--

Sure.

Could be a donor, but I obviously have mixed feelings.

If she were to suddenly have a change of heart and say, "Yes," a--

[Laura] What an enormous relief it would be for everyone.

Yeah, I mean, I think it'd be marvelous.

On the other hand, I don't blame her at all for, you know, making the decision that she's made.

It's not even a rational decision, really, this is a piece of my body and I'm not gonna give it away.

[Walter] Well I understand that, well...

And surgery is scary, and things are scary, and I've got lots of rational reasons, but the actual reason is just that it bothers me, the idea.

[Walter] I know, I know.

It would bother me too.

[Laura] Yeah.

And you damn well know that, you know, we would have done anything for you when you were growing up, and you'll do the same for your kids.

No, I could have told you already that that would be, of course that would be different.

(Laura and Nancy laugh)

[Walter] Right, well.

I'm not an idiot, of course that would be different.

You know, I mean, it's my parents.

They've done lots of things for me.

It seems like I ought to be able to do something for them, and I do things for them, but you know, this is something that my father actually needs, and to feel like it's not something that I'm willing to do.

If it were something I couldn't do, I would feel less guilty, but it being something that I'm not willing to do, I've made a decision not to help.

(dramatic piano and guitar music)

I mean, I really only have three choices at this point, okay?

I either get a transplant overseas, I get a transplant in this country, or I die.

It feels to me as though going overseas and taking an organ from somebody for money, again, especially because that's something that I wouldn't be comfortable doing.

Yeah, it's using them.

And taking advantage of their poverty, which is something that is, I mean, it's wrong.

Right, I agree.

There's no argument, and the fact that other people in this country can't afford to do this kind of thing is unfair.

Sure.

[Nancy] But life is unfair.

[Laura] I know, and I know life is unfair, and I know--

You know, rich people get things that poor people don't.

That's the way the world works.

That's true.

I wish we were rich. (chuckles)

Well, whatever, but you know what I mean.

It's the choosing to take advantage of it that's so uncomfortable, you know?

I just don't see that there's a lot of choice.

(bus honks and clangs)

My family's riddled with kidney disease.

My mom's been on the machine for 18 years.

There she is.

She doesn't look like the same person.

I mean, if you ask anybody who knew her 10 years ago, and they saw her now, they wouldn't recognize her.

The change has been that dramatic.

Hi.

How's Alexander?

He's good.

She's tired and her body is broken down in many ways.

And dialysis has just crippled her.

She's only 53.

Mom, I didn't park very close.

Do you want me to park closer?

(machine beeping)

My brother started dialysis three years ago as well.

My mom developed bone disease.

Her hair started falling out.

It's just been one thing after another for the past 18 years.

I just don't want to see myself go down the same path my mom has, where, you know, you just degenerate.

Your body just starts to fall apart after a while.

If my kids could have a transplant, it would be a new beginning.

My daughter's been on dialysis about six years and my son, three, so if there's a kidney out there, give it to my kids before me because I really want them to.

I really want them that gift.

I've got this cool technology.

It's the latest, you know?

You see, what I do is, I, in, out. (chuckles)

So, you know, it's like a faucet.

There's two lines basically.

It's in his jugular, and that's what he lives with everyday.

Like, he can't have a shower.

The benefits of having that, like he said, like you don't have to put needles in your arms everyday.

You just hook up and you're good.

[Nick] You show them your arm and then we'll compare.

Okay, this is what terrifies me.

You wanna see an old pro? (laughs)

[Mary Jo] This is 20 years.

[Nick] Look at this.

This is the choice I had, you know?

They told me I had a week to live, and this is what I knew would happen to me if they started sticking me.

I used this too many times that every once in a while it just bursts.

[Mary Jo] That's when it exploded.

Yeah. Before Halloween.

[Nick] At the dinner table. (chuckles)

(dramatic guitar music)

I've heard of the black market where, you know, people are going to try and source out kidneys from, you know, underdeveloped countries.

"Hello, everyone, all of you need kidneys

"but don't have potential donors.

"If I am right, then I have the exact solution for you."

Yeah, I don't know what to make of stuff like this.

The black market idea scares me a little bit.

There's people who have come back riddled with infections.

So, you hear stuff like that and you just think, "Wow, that's not the route I want to take."

I could definitely see more people saying, "I will donate a kidney, and I'm really hard up for cash."

They're helping someone, and it might even help them in a way, so they're, the person who is sick is benefiting, and this person is getting the compensation that might actually turn their life around as well.

The one guy who wants to donate his kidney is not donating it because it's coming from somewhere deep inside.

He's donating it because he's desperate for money, so...

I disagree.

I think he's doing it knowing that he's helping this guy.

Even though it's petty, it may seem materialistic, he still doesn't have to do that, you know what I mean?

But if he didn't need the money, do you think he would still do it?

Maybe not, it sounds like he wouldn't, but the guy's getting 20 grand, but the guys getting a kidney, you know what I mean?

And he knows the circumstance.

Yeah, and that's fine and they're all, you know, everybody's happy, but what happens when that 20 grand doesn't work out?

What's he gonna do, try and sell another part of his body?

Well, hopefully not.

If our system is failing us, this is the outcome, right?

This is the by-product.

Well, when something isn't freely available, a black market exists.

(dramatic strings music)

(car honks)

[Narrator] In Kosovo, the infamous Medicus clinic is deserted now, its doctors, donors, patients, and brokers scattered around the world.

Getting witnesses back to Kosovo to testify is proving a challenge for Jonathan Ratel.

There's a lot of moving parts right now.

There's a lot of different agencies and people involved.

It's my opinion that the organized criminal group chose Kosovo for a particular reason.

Its claim of sovereignty is recognized by some states and not others.

We can be seeking evidence in a foreign country that will not respond to us because they do not recognize Kosovo.

That is a massive difficulty.

[Narrator] So far, Ratel has seven local doctors and clinicians secured for the trial, but Turkey refuses to extradite Dr. Yusuf Sonmez.

And there's another key player Ratel wants, the middleman who made the Medicus machine run smoothly.

After all, someone had to organize blood tests and tissue matching.

Someone had to book flights and take care of logistics.

And hundreds of thousands of dollars had to cross oceans and change hands.

According to Ratel, Moshe Harel was that someone.

[Jonathan] He is the fixer, the person that arranges all of this, the business end of the trafficking conspiracy.

He informed me right from the outset, that as soon as they complete the required medical tests, they have so many donors that they can do the operation within one week or two.

And he, at a point, told me, "Well, you know, we're ready.

"We're waiting for you."

And I said, "What is these guys?

"I mean, you have a football team of donors?"

And he says, "Well, pretty close to it."

[Narrator] Moshe Harel was arrested in Pristina when the Medicus clinic was raided by the Kosovo police but was released on bail with a promise to return for the trial.

Since then, he has disappeared, except on Facebook.

And though he didn't respond to messages, he did post that he is in an open relationship and he likes Restauranteers.

But for Raul Fain, Moshe was the crucial link to a life-saving operation.

Even in the black market, in addition to a surgeon, every transplant involves a nephrologist, a kidney doctor who ensures that the recipient is suitable for a transplant and that he's matched with an appropriate donor.

Moshe informed me that there is this doctor by the name of Zaki Shapira that is a quite a well-known nephrologist in Israel.

And he kind of jokingly says, "Go on the internet.

"You'll find him.

"He's already famous."

And he didn't really specify to me what is he famous for.

Dr. Zaki Shapira had a very important role of doing the matching and checking all the blood tests and making sure that, you know, which is quite probably equal responsibility to the doctor that is doing the surgery.

[Narrator] Jonathan Ratel has named Zaki Shapira an unindicted co-conspirator in the Medicus case.

[Director] Do you have a sense of what this person did?

Absolutely.

[Director] What?

Well as an unindicted co-conspirator, they're part of the organized criminal group involved in this.

And they are at the level or near the level of Sonmez and Harel.

If that individual is beyond the reach of the prosecutor, the person cannot be indicted.

[Director] You're powerless.

The prosecutor can't reach them.

Dr. Shapira was like a father.

He, at all time, tried to calm both of us.

You feel very assured when somebody makes a trip and takes the time to come and see you and to come to reassure you that the surgery went out okay and there are no, everything seems to be in place.

[Narrator] Controversy has shadowed Professor Zaki Shapira for decades and he has declined all interviews in the past.

But now, he agrees to go on camera for the first time and break his public silence.


[Narrator] Dr. Shapira is one of Israel's most distinguished transplant surgeons.

In the early days, with ambiguous laws and a dire shortage of kidneys, few questions were asked about the source of his donors.


[Narrator] When an ethics review board began to question his methods, Shapira moved some of his business into Eastern Europe and to nearby Turkey, where he found high clinical standards, a large supply of willing kidney sellers, and a brilliant surgeon named Yusuf Sonmez.

In 2007, the two physicians were arrested in Istanbul during one of their operations and spent three months together in a Turkish prison before the charges against them were dropped.

[Director] How many operations do you think you've done?

[Director] So 850 times you traveled to foreign locations to operate?

[Narrator] Operating in clandestine locations posed some unique challenges.


[Director] And nothing happened, they were all fine?

[Director] Doesn't it bother you that your reputation may have suffered?


The truth is that that organ came from someone, and that person was exploited.

They were extremely vulnerable, and the harvesting of their organ is an outrageous act.


(dramatic strings music)

[Narrator] Five hours from Manila is a province where the kidney trade has cut a swath through the male population.

(machine clicking)

So many in this region have sold their kidney, they have formed a small support group.


(dramatic piano and strings music)

[Narrator] Even in this destitute corner of the Philippines, no one claims to have been drugged, duped, or dragged into the operating room.

They are, however, victims of a system that is unregulated and rife with the potential for exploitation.


(dramatic synth music)

[Narrator] The thrill of a quick payoff extends across villages and through families, like these three brothers.

Noli used his windfall to buy a motorized skateboard, the only form of transportation in his village.

The fares he charges, mere pennies a ride, sustain his family of four.

(oil sizzling)


[Narrator] For all the men the lure is simple, more cash than they could earn in a year or two of village labor.

But Hector is one man for whom it all went wrong.

(rooster crows)

He's been suffering crippling pains for months.


(rooster crows)

[Narrator] Hector spent the proceeds of his surgery long ago, so the production team pays for an ultrasound to find the source of his chronic pain.

Based on the ultrasound findings, the left kidney has a mild renal disease.

And this is a sign of a deteriorating left kidney.

There is really a problem.

He will be a candidate for dialysis, and he himself will be looking for a donor.

[Narrator] Hector should never have been accepted as a donor.

He likely had kidney disease long before he sold his organ on the black market.

His remaining kidney is failing quickly.

Probably, tragically, so is the one that he donated to a dying stranger.

No one knows how many other horror stories could be told in China, in India, all across the developing world.

Yet for all its dangers, the lure of using the body as a bankbook remains irresistible.

(family socializing)

It's now been almost eight years, and Mary Jo still hasn't made it to the top of the list.

I don't how she does it some days.

Putting those needles in her arm for eight hours every other day and then working and taking care of her family.

You know, and it's been going on for almost eight years.

It's inconceivable, and it's wearing on us.

It's wearing on her, especially.

You know, she's growing, she's getting tired.

I feel terrible about it.

I'm inspired by her.

Like, I used to be irritated 'cause I was maybe a bit more immature and selfish, but now it's, you know, we've got a kid together, and we've got a life that we've built, and you've got to suck it up.

(dramatic strings and piano music)

I was told I was somewhere like halfway up the list, which surprised me a little bit because, when I started, they told me seven or eight years.

Now, they're telling me possibly 10 years, so I don't know.

When you were here last time, we were thinking very strongly about trying to figure out how I could go overseas to get a kidney because we knew that I didn't have very long and nothing seemed to be happening here.

But I said, at the time, that I wasn't going to give up on alternate paths.

I do not believe that very many people recognize that they can do an altruistic donation to some person.

There are a couple websites, in particular, matchingdonors.com, that have altruistic donors on them.

Matching donors has caused more than 300 transplants in the last six years, and it's always possible that I might wind up being one of them if I find the right person at the right time.

How many people are there in the world that voluntarily want to give up a kidney because somebody needs kidneys?

I think the number is pretty small.

It doesn't seem like it's in the cards.

Unfortunately, a large number of those potential donors are looking to donate to somebody young, with young children, whose life they could save and they can be a hero, but I'm not going to badger anybody.

I will send one email to somebody and say, "Would you consider me as a recipient?" and explain who I am and what I am and so on.

And I don't know why more people do not respond to me.

Part of the problem may be that I come on too strong.

I don't know.

It's a hit or miss proposition, but anything's worth a try, and all avenues are worth pursuing.

(gulls squawking)

[Narrator] In Turkey, the infamous Dr. Sonmez is still at large, but surprisingly, he does respond to his email, with a dinner invitation in Istanbul, no cameras, no crew.

The director travels to Turkey to meet the surgeon.

She assumed the meeting would be clandestine but is surprised to find that dinner includes his parents, his wife, and young daughter.

The next day, he phones the director and agrees to an interview.

Why?

Because his mother trusts her.

I think that he has become a scapegoat.

There's nobody he killed, nobody.

You see, he's a very good surgeon.

Everybody accepts it.

He might look scary from outside, but he's quite soft inside.

[Director] I think Yusuf is coming.

Yusuf is coming.

Ah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

(speaking in foreign language)


Dr. Yusuf Somnez, he's a very interesting individual in the sense that he's highly intelligent, sophisticated, and quite worldly.

But I think it's quite clear that he is a significant international component to organ trafficking around the world.


[Narrator] Yusuf Sonmez has outflanked the Turkish justice system six times, but if he ever leaves his homeland, Jonathan Ratel will be waiting.

The Interpol Red Notice, an international arrest warrant, has trapped Dr. Sonmez in Turkey.

The moment he leaves the country, he risks getting arrested.

[Director] I would gather it's a little bit annoying?

No.

It's not annoying?

No, why?

Look, crimes against life and health, people smuggling, trafficking, and illegal immigration.

[Narrator] Dr. Sonmez seems less disturbed about his fate than about his photo.

I just told him, "Please, Yusuf, we are in trouble.

"You see, we are very, very sad about you.

"Please leave becoming a surgeon

"and working as a surgeon, you see."

(chuckles) What he told me, do you know?

"Are you going to say, to tell me, "Mother, that I'm going to be a grocer?" (laughs)

"I cannot do it because it's not my business.

"I cannot do it.

"Yes, and only I can do one thing.

"I am a doctor."

[Narrator] While Dr. Sonmez blames the media for his notoriety, he recognizes that he has been operating at the margins of the law.

[Director] Why did you go to Azerbaijan, to Kosovo?

You are begging for trouble.


Dr. Sonmez cannot understand why there is any legal question about it, and the morality of what he is doing escapes him.

I think that he believes that he is providing a service to extremely desperate individuals.

[Director] If a donor comes from Moldova or Ukraine--

[Director] And you have no idea that the donors were getting paid?

This Kosovo case, because it touched really all of parts of the world, it affected not just me but my family.

After this case dropped in the newspapers, my uncle and my aunt, they called, and they asked, "You know that you are living with a criminal?"

Because people do believe what's written in the media.

If, for example, in Yusuf's case, if the media said that he is the boss of the Mafia, people do believe that one.

It is a case as gruesome as it is shocking.

A surgeon and six other suspects in Kosovo are accused of running an international organ trafficking ring.

[Reporter] Kosovo has become a haven in the illicit trade of human organs.

At least seven suspects in Kosovo have been charged with persuading people to sell their organs.

The victims were lured from other countries and had their kidneys stolen.

[Reporter] The gang allegedly preyed on those living in extreme poverty. The gang.

[Reporter] The indictment says an Ontario man, Raul Fain, received a kidney from a Russian woman.

The fact that my name was mentioned kind of makes me very uneasy, as if I knowingly participated in this particular scheme, which really fairly honestly, if I wouldn't have been part of it and I would just be a regular TV watcher, I would be very offended myself of how people take advantage of other people and mislead them and so on.

But how do you counter that?

You have to go and say "No, I know

"that the facts are different."

The medical ethics of this are clear to anybody involved in the profession, and you have to step over that line quite clearly, and the only reason that someone would do that, in my opinion, is absolute pure and simple greed.

That's what motivates this, is the motive for obscene profits.

There were doctors involved and nephrologists and surgeon and all this people, and I think they did it more than just pure money.

I mean, everybody works for money.

You don't work for nothing.

But I don't think that was their primary motive for doing this.


(dramatic synth music)

[Narrator] The economics of the organ trade are a challenge to unravel.

The compensation that donors receive for selling their kidney varies widely.

The poorer the country, the lower the price.

In India, the payoff can be as low as $1,000.

In Egypt, it's $2,000.

In Turkey, up to $10,000.

The cost of the operation might be ten times higher, but many people get a piece of the action.

What does everybody get?

I really have no idea.

All I can tell you is there are many hands in the pie because there are so many people involved, and each one has an important role.

I mean, just look at the people that I came in contact with, right?

I have a Moshe.

I have a surgeon.

We are here in a fully-staffed clinic with two male nurses at all time for us.

So, you know, it adds up.

[Narrator] Back in Manila, Eddieboy's operation is finally scheduled.


(engine purring)

[Narrator] The next day, Diane accompanies Eddieboy to the hospital.

(suspenseful strings and piano music)

A few hours after Eddieboy is admitted, a member of the production team, rigged with a hidden camera and posing as a relative, will meet him in his room.

The goal is to identify the recipient and see how much money changes hands.

(people socializing)

But several hours after leaving Eddieboy off at the hospital, Diane calls and asks to meet.

Surprisingly, she's with Eddieboy.

[Narrator] It's an unlikely story.

Transplants are rarely canceled at the last minute.

With a little investigation, we learn the truth.

Uncomfortable with the cameras and the focus on Eddieboy, Diane replaced him at the last minute with another one of her clients, a man who has just returned home with fresh bandages and what should have been Eddieboy's cash.

No country is immune to the trade in human organs.

[Jason] My family thought I was nuts.

At first, it was like, "You shouldn't do this.

"Why are you doing this?

"Why are you even thinking about it?"

[Narrator] In a suburb of Philadelphia, Jason Chamberlain sold his kidney on the internet.

[Dianne] What are you doing?

What are you doin', hun?

Gotta go on Craigslist.

You're gonna go on Craigslist, for what?

I'm going to go on the free section and see if I can find stuff to clean up and resell on Craigslist.

I love you son.

God bless you.

I'm basically doing whatever I can to survive.

In the course of doing like Google searches, I came across a gentleman that posted an ad, "In need of a kidney."

I thought it was just somebody playing a game, so I actually replied to it, and I got a reply back.

"No, I'm dead serious.

"I'm in desperate need."

I asked him what kind of compensation I would receive.

He offered me $20,000.

So after thinking about, you know, that number, I came to the decision that, that would seem fair.

I was like, "Are you crazy?"

I'm like, you know, it's a lot involved in it.

I was trying to start a business so I figured, "Wait a minute.

"Okay, maybe I can get something out of this, "and he can get what he needs."

So, it's a one hand washes the other situation.

There was, you know, plenty of trips back and forth to the hospital, pre-testing, lots of pre-testing.

His antibodies and his blood was rejecting just about everybody that was being tested, so it was a long shot.

It was down to the point where I was the only match out of over 70 people.

[Narrator] Just like Diane's impoverished clients in Manila, Jason was able to bluff his way through a pre-surgery interview.

We never mentioned that it was a Craigslist ad, but I know they had their suspicions.

They were just trying to trip me up, to make sure that I was doing this on my own free will and I wasn't being, you know, I wasn't selling the kidney.

I don't feel exploited, and I don't feel that I exploited the recipient either.

I feel that it was just something we both agreed on, you know?

I needed to live, I needed to survive, and so did he.

So that's why, you know, I'm sitting here a living donor, and he has a kidney that's functional.

(dramatic synth and piano music)

(cars honking)

The ultimate good for society is saving someone's life.

The government encourages me to walk into that hospital right there and say, "I want to donate my kidney altruistically."

So the act itself is considered a good act!

So why not offer people incentives to do the right thing?

What's wrong with that?

If donating a kidney was considered to be horrific, if cutting into my body to save a stranger was considered to be immoral or horrific, then I would understand the government saying, "We're not going to allow that, "not for money, and not altruistically."

But they allow it altruistically, so why not allow it for money?

[Narrator] Robby Berman is an activist, advocating for a government-regulated system to compensate kidney donors.

So this is the script.

Basically, you guys are gonna be standing across the street, and you're gonna be looking at this building as if there's a fire in the building and there's a 10-year-old boy on the roof that's screaming for help.

As soon as the fire starts going, I want everyone to start looking up.

(flame crackles and hisses)

Help, help!

You know, it's clear to me that if you want to get a message across, YouTube is the way to go.

So I want to make a video that will, in a fun way, get the message across.

The kid represents 7,000 Americans that are dying every year.

That's my boy!

That's my son!

You turn around and you say, "I will give a thousand dollars

"to anyone who will save my son."

For a thousand dollars, I'll risk my life.

The guy in the black leather jacket, he is the poor person who is being exploited.

Sorry, I can't let you do it.

Who are you?

My name is Peter Paternalistic.

Peter Paternalistic, my alter ego, is the establishment.

It's the government.

It's the people who think they know better.

Why won't you let me save the boy?

Because your motives are impure.

You're doing it for the thousand dollars.

Well, I was doing it for the money but also to save his life.

Yes, but to save a life, maybe next week you would take a thousand dollars to sell your kidney.

My God!

[Robby] (laughs) Okay, that was funny.

That's good.

Let's do that again.

(dramatic strings music)

[Narrator] The crux of the Medicus case lies with the exploitation of the victims who were compelled by desperation to sell a body part.

There is a propaganda machine as far as looking at it from only one viewpoint, that organs are stolen against people's wishes.

But I can say that from my experience that the donors seemed quite willingly to do the surgery.

All of the donors have returned to their home countries.

They're difficult to locate.

We're trying to find these people and have them provide evidence.

Many of them may not be cooperative.

They may feel ashamed or betrayed or injured.

[Narrator] Raul Fain's donor holds the key to what really happened at Medicus.

Among the documents seized when the Medicus clinic was raided is a grainy photocopy of her passport.

The alleged victim of this international organ trafficking ring is a woman named Anna, from a country called Moldova.

Raul's donor will be the final link in the anatomy of a black market operation.

Moldova, like Kosovo, is a fledgling republic overrun by criminal gangs.

Once known for exporting wine, vegetables, and fruit, it's now known for exporting impoverished donors to the global organ trade.

Here, in a tiny flat, is the haunting face from the Medicus files.

Raul's kidney donor, Anna Rusalenco, is 48 years old and lives alone.

Her journey to the Medicus clinic began with an ad in a Russian-language newspaper.


They were dressed very careful, very appropriate.

One had quite a few pieces of jewelry.

They seemed to be smiling.

They didn't appear to be nervous.

(engine roars)


I was asked, at the time, to sign a statement that, you know, everything is done quite, quite normally and that nobody has forced anybody into doing any of this.


[Director] And this is the walk that you take everyday?

A month and a half ago, we were looking at options that weren't very good.

But I said that I wasn't going to give up, and my wife was pretty negative about matchingdonors.com, and then I lucked into Laurie.

I need a 16-ounce...

We spent the whole last month texting each other to the point where I filled up my text box at least three times, okay?

You only need one kidney.

I got two and they're healthy.

And so if I can give one to somebody else to live an equally happy life, you know, and healthy and that's great.

I just happened to luck into meeting her at the right time, in the right place.

I went onto matchingdonors.com, and Walter contacted me the first day.

I think I'm just comfortable with him, you know?

He says what he has to say, you know?

He lays it all out there.

It's not candy-coated, and I'm used to that.

That's what I'm from.

I mean, it's like being at home.

People have asked me, you know, "Why not a younger child or a woman or a younger man?"

I have a hard time with that.

The value of his life is nothing less than a six-year-old or a four-year-old or, you know?

He's equally as important as the next person.

(machine beeping)

Laurie is giving me a gift, and I love her for it.

She is giving me back my life.

That is a gift that can never be repaid.

I'm just afraid that when somebody really comes and asks you, "Are you sure that Walter's

"the person that you want to donate to?" that you'll start to think it over and you'll say, "Well, maybe not."

As much as this is for Walter, this is really for me too.

When I lost a very dear friend,

I would have given anything to save her life.

[Nancy] Okay.

And um--

[Nancy] And, of course, you couldn't, yeah.

I didn't have that opportunity, and I'm so sorry. (sobs)

And if I can help one person...

Live his life with his wife and his children and his grandchildren--

[Nancy] Oh, wow.

That's, it's important to me in here.

Well, thank you so much for that.

[Jeffery] How's life been on dialysis?

It sucks.

It sucks, huh, yeah.

[Mary Jo] How's the transplant list doing?

Part of the problem is that the way things stand now, there are separate lists for each of the regions and organ donation varies.

They're better in some parts of the province than they are in others, and Toronto has lagged behind.

[Mary Jo] So I could have been on a shorter list all this time.

Had you been referred there, yes.

[Mary Jo] That's a little heartbreaking to hear.

It is, it is, yeah.

I've just learned that I'm on the longest list in Ontario, (scoffs) so which is really somewhat discouraging and upsetting because I live here, and had I known, maybe we could have decided to live somewhere else.

I don't know if we would've or not.

It's just, again, it's something I didn't know.

I was ignorant to.

And, you know, you just wonder when it's gonna happen.

So I have no choice but to be positive and deal with things as they come.

(machine beeping)

I do as much as I can, but, I just, I would love to feel good.

I'm tired.

I start early in the morning, and I'm done.

By nine, 10 o'clock, like, I am spent, and then I have to go shove needles up my arms.

So yeah, I would love to get off the machine.

I really would, and the idea of doing another two years doesn't make me happy.

[Walter] God, I'm scared.

[Nancy] Don't be, why?

[Walter] Just surgery.

[Narrator] Altruistic donors like Laurie Wood are one in a million.

Walter has won the lottery.

(machinery beeping)

(dramatic piano and strings music)

[Walter] Hi, Troy.

Hi, sweetness.

It was really good just to see Walter this morning, and he looked incredible and that's great, you know?

It's a good feeling you can make that kind of a difference in somebody.

You're not gonna make lots of trouble.

You be good, behave yourself.

I know I'm gonna make lots of trouble.

No you're not.

I owe Laurie the rest of my life.

My life expectancy, as a statistic, just went up, a lot.

(dramatic piano music)

[Narrator] Brought together by fate, Anna Rusalenco and Raul Fain are now linked in a court of law as well.

Jonathan Ratel's indictment of Doctor Sonmez and the rest of the Kosovo transplant network has brought suspicion and detectives into their homes.

I had a visit from the RCMP, which informed me that they are acting on behalf of Interpol.

There were always surprise-type visits and not finding me home, spreading their business card to all my neighbors and telling them, "Oh, I'm looking for Mr. Fain.

"Do you know where he is?" and so on and so forth.

I found this method a little bit disconcerting.

I had no choice but to give a testimony or I would have faced a jail sentence.


There was a guy in Brooklyn here who got caught six months ago being a broker, buying and selling kidneys, and he made money, he became wealthy, but he broke the law, and he saved hundreds of lives.

I follow a law, I observe the law, and I have let hundreds of people die.

Who's moral and who's immoral?

I think I'm immoral, and that guy who broke the law, he's more moral.

He saved hundreds of lives.

So yeah, I'm working within the system, but I'm getting sick of the system.

("Out of Time" by Blur)

[Narrator] Every year, thousands of illicit kidney transplants continue to take place in countries around the world.

In all these cases, the recipients are deathly sick and the donors are poor and desperate.

This is the thread that unites donors, doctors, and patients in a web of fortune, fear, and infamy.

In Kosovo, a thrust to shut down the global kidney trade has captured seven local defendants, but the major players are far away and free.

In Turkey, Dr. Yusuf Sonmez, a virtuoso labeled a vulture, has relinquished his scalpel.

In Israel, Zaki Shapira, an unrepentant pioneer, has quietly retired.

In Canada, Raul lives.

In Moldova, Anna survives.

And all around the world, the dance of desperation goes on.

This case is the hallmark of a rank exploitation of the human condition.

These victims were identified, selected--

I just hope that the donor has benefited from this at least as much as I did because I benefited a lot.

* Where's the love song

* Set us free

* Too many people down

* Everything turning the wrong way around

* And I don't know what love will be

* But if we start dreaming now

* Lord knows we'll never leave the clouds

* And you've been so busy lately

* That you haven't found the time

* To open up your mind

* And watch the world spinning

* Gently out of time

* Feel the sunshine on your face

* It's in a computer now

* Gone to the future

* Way out in space

* And you've been so busy lately

* That you haven't found the time

* To open up your mind

* And watch the world spinning

* Gently out of time


* And you've been so busy lately

* That you haven't found the time

* To open up your mind

* And watch the world spinning

* Gently out of time

* Tell me I'm not dreaming

* But are we out of time

* We're out of time

* Out of time

* Out of time

* Out of time

* Out of time