The Evil of Organ Trafficking

When the news broke that an American Army veteran, Everett Palmer, had died while in police custody and that an autopsy revealed that his brain, throat, and heart were missing, I shuddered. (

The story took me back to the case of a young black man, Kendrick Johnson, who was found dead in a wrestling mat in Valdosta, Georgia in 2013. The police said it was a freak accident, but Johnson’s parents would not and could not accept that finding and arranged to have their son’s body exhumed for a second autopsy.

And what they found was not only evidence of blunt force trauma to their son’s neck, but his body was stuffed with newspaper. His brain, heart, lungs, and liver were missing.

There is a thriving black market for organs, not only in this country but around the world. Apparently, brokers team up with funeral homes, “forging consent forms and a death certificate,” according to Nancy Scheper Hughes, who wrote on the subject for Psychology Today.( Viable organs are being harvested and sold all over the country, especially in major cities, where they can sell for as much as $150,000 each.

Some hospitals, reports Hughes, are “broker-friendly,” where surgeons, in need of organs for their patients, “either do not know or don’t care” where the organs come from.

One donor, she said, can save up to eight lives.

Who are the donors? They include people indiscriminately kidnapped and subsequently murdered, children sold into sex slavery, And who gets the organs? Wealthy people who can afford the steep price tag.

In the case of Kendrick Johnson, who was only 17 years old at the time of his death, the Georgia Board of Funeral Service said there was nothing illegal about the funeral home stuffing the young man’s body cavity with newspaper. ( What the Board of Funeral Services did not address was why and how they thought Johnson’s organs came to be missing. The horrific find would not have occurred if Johnson’s parents had not demanded a second autopsy. The Department of Justice, after that second autopsy, did an investigation and found that there was not enough evidence of foul play to support federal charges.

But clearly, there is something very wrong. Organ trafficking is big business. The average donor gets $5000 – if he or she is not murdered. In 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 11,000 organs were obtained on the black market. An organ, says Huges, is sold every hour of every day.

Palmer’s parents are demanding answers, as any parent would, but if Kendrick Johnson’s case is any indication, the system has little sympathy for their pain and little intention of helping them get to the truth. Kendrick Johnson’s parents – who stood in the blazing hot Valdosta sun every day for months as they awaited answers and help – eventually filed a $100 million lawsuit against 38 people they believed to have been involved in either their son’s death or the lackluster investigation into his death. The lawsuit was eventually withdrawn, but the judge ordered them to pay nearly $300,000 to the defendants, accusing the parents of having fabricated evidence to support their claims. (

It is clear to see why in the Bible it is written: “it is the love of money which is the root of all evil.” For money, it seems that too many people die and too many people of means reap the reward of their deaths by receiving their stolen organs.

My prayer is that the family of Mr. Palmer get to the bottom of why his organs are missing. That the quest for money leads people to do such horrific things pushes the capacity to understand the depth of evil around us …because clearly, the evil is thick and runs deep, to the detriment of far too many innocent people.

A candid observation …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s