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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 December, 2003, 18:14 GMT
Moldovan's organ sold for sax
Sergiu put the money towards his saxophone
A musician in Moldova has gone to an extraordinary length to get his career started - by selling his kidney to afford a saxophone.

Sergiu, 23 - who as a professional musician has toured parts of Europe - sold the kidney to a Turkish hospital for $10,000 (5,800).

He has since been able to afford the instruments to further his career in the poverty-stricken eastern European country.

"This is my only profession. All I know is to make music," Sergiu told the BBC's Romanian service.

"I don't know anything else. I can't do anything else, and my future depends on these instruments I have," he said.

"They are my daily bread."


Moldova has one of the highest organ-trafficking rates in the world, and the problem is so great the government is currently working on a new penal code to provide a legal basis to fight the illicit trade.

Some 80% of Moldova's population live below the poverty line and there is a constant flow of people heading to Turkey, where organs are often sold to Israelis.

Sergiu said selling the kidney was the only way he had been able to forge a career.

"I was poor - I was not able to perform, because I didn't have an instrument," he said.

"I didn't have a house - I used to rent. I didn't have any clothes. I didn't have proper shoes, like other musicians."

After his orchestra toured France, Sergiu returned home and made his decision that to go further, he needed a new instrument.

He heard a "rumour" that an Istanbul clinic was offering cash for kidneys - and so he left.

Sergiu said he called a Turkish friend who he met at an international festival, and asked him to find out more information.

"He found out and called me after two weeks, and said, 'it is possible, for $10,000.'

"I bought a return ticket. I went there, he met me at the airport. I went with him to the clinic, and he introduced me to a man at the clinic.

Official papers

"He made some tests. Then I was placed in a hotel and I stayed there overnight.

"The next day, some solicitors came and we wrote the official papers which said I agreed to donate my kidney."

Sergiu said he was sent to the clinic in the afternoon, and had the operation later that evening.

"I woke up the next morning. I stayed there one week.

"After that, and old man - who took me to the airport - gave me $10,000 in an envelope.

"I counted the money, I put it in my pocket, I got on to the plane, and went home."

Moldovan President Voronin
Moldova's government is trying to crack down on the organ trade
Having a kidney removed does not usually prove damaging to people in good health, but it carries serious long-term health risks.

In particular, it may prove fatal should problems develop with the one remaining kidney.

"Sometimes I'm frightened - I'm afraid I might die," Sergiu stated.

"But it doesn't hurt. I don't have any problems."

And he added he would not change his decision.

"I don't see where else I could have got the money from. My mother doesn't help me, nobody else could help me," he said.

"To live like I used to live, with nothing to eat, with no instruments - to have an audition and not be able to go... all these things are now in the past, as if they have never existed.

"All these problems with the money, the instruments, are gone."

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Country profile: Moldova
26 Nov 03  |  Country profiles



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