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Monday, February 25, 2008

Myth Busting Monday - Stolen Kidneys

MYTH: Drugged travelers wake up in a bath tub of ice with a missing kidney

I remember the first time I heard this myth and being totally shocked that someone would go through all that effort to get some extra cash. After hearing about it I would occasionally hear other people talk about it as a joke or tv shows making fun of the situation but I never gave it much thought past that. To give you some more insight into this myth here is a version of the story I found while researching this myth.

"Bob" — was on a business trip alone somewhere in Europe, and went out to a bar one night to have a cocktail. Wouldn't you know it, he woke up the next morning in an unfamiliar hotel room with severe pain in his lower back. He was taken to the emergency room, where doctors determined that, unbeknownst to himself, Bob had undergone major surgery the night before. One of his kidneys had been removed, cleanly and professionally. [source]
In other versions the myth take place in Huston, New Orleans, Las Vegas or other major US cities; but no matter the place all the stories are basically the same, some one wakes up with missing kidneys. The urban legend site has the complete email concerning this myth that was passed around the internet back in '97, you can read it here.

Here are some quotes I found that de-bunk this myth:
A drug-induced haze, a bathtub full of ice, a gaping hole where the left kidney should be: you may have heard the main ingredients of this popular legend, which has turned up in various forms. Organized bands of organ-thieves are the usual culprits and students or business travelers their victims. A particularly rampant e-mail outbreak of this (un-true) tale in 1997 prompted law and organ-donor groups to issue press releases debunking the legend. [source]
In fact, it's all but impossible for such activities to take place outside properly-equipped medical facilities, UNOS argues. The removal, transport, and transplantation of human organs involves procedures so complex and delicate, requiring a sterile setting, minute timing, and the support of so many highly-trained personnel, that they simply could not be accomplished "on the street," as it were.
The National Kidney Foundation has repeatedly issued requests for alleged victims of such crimes to come forward and validate their stories. To date, none have. [source]
In my opinion, the criminals in this story go through a lot of effort to get the organs in addition to preforming the surgery in such a way as to have the 'donor' live to tell the tale. If there are criminals out there that are willing to go through all that effort for an organ then there should be poachers out there that put elephants and rhinos to sleep in order to harvest their ivory; but instead, rather than go through all that trouble, the poachers kill the animals and then remove the ivory. I think organ harvesters would do the same that if organization like that really existed; why settle for one or two kidneys when potentially they could harvest an entire body full of organs. I know this is kind of a morbid way of looking at the situation, but the criminals in this myth are just way to nice.

Since you don't hear news stories about someones organ being stolen and that no one has come forward to the National Kidney Foundation to report that something like this has happened to that proves to me that this myth is just that, a myth.

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