Page last updated at 06:34 GMT, Wednesday, 9 July 2008 07:34 UK

Black market in organs uncovered

By Paula MacKinnon
BBC Scotland

BBC Scotland journalist Paula MacKinnon uncovers a market for human organs in her attempt to donate one of her healthy kidneys to a stranger in a bid to save a life.

You may think I'm mad but I'm not - I actually think what I'm doing is very simple.

Paula MacKinnon and her mother, Catherine
Paula MacKinnon had originally planned to donate a kidney to her mother

I am donating one of my kidneys to a stranger.

I don't need two.

I have researched it well and am convinced that I will not suffer health-wise.

I came to this decision after my mother had kidney failure - I started the process of donating to her but we were not compatible.

She has other health problems and doesn't want a transplant now anyway.

The tests started 10 months ago - a lot of them - blood tests, scans and being injected with dye, amongst many other things.

It's not been easy to be honest and sometimes I have asked myself what am I doing, but it all boils down to one thing.

My donation could change someone's life and it's really minimal in terms of effort from me.

I am in the final stages - it's up to the Human Tissue Authority to decide now and I still have to have an MR scan - basically to see how my kidney is 'plumbed' for retrieval by the surgeons.


Secret filming exposes the organ black market

I am a journalist and decided to make a programme about it because it would get people talking about organ donation - it's a subject which is very close to my heart now because it affects me so directly.

In my research I discovered some frankly shocking things.

There is a black market in kidneys here in the UK.

I secretly filmed people trying to sell me their kidneys, exploiting the vulnerability of someone who is desperate to help a family member.

They are also trying to exploit the very law that has changed to allow me to make a 'stranger donation'.

They wanted to fool the authorities - the first woman I met started with an asking price of 250,000, another man wanted the 'price of a Mercedes' - 60,000.

I met them in cafes across the UK and their actions were shocking.

They know they are doing something illegal and just don't seem to care.

I met with a man who was a 'transplant tourist', who paid 7,000 in Pakistan to buy a kidney.

I understand his desperation but I then travelled to India and met with the very people who are selling their kidneys.

Barbara Ryder donated her kidney to Andy Loudon
Barbara Ryder donated her kidney to Andy Loudon
They have been butchered - their scars are huge and they have long-term health problems.

It did make me doubt my actions for a moment, but I realise that what I am doing is done with great care to me and does not involve money.

I trust the doctors and NHS staff - they would not do anything to harm me.

A lot of my friends and family are not keen about my plans - I guess they just care for my health - but I wouldn't do it if I thought it would suffer.

I met Barbara Ryder - she has done the same thing that I'm trying to do - it was great to meet her because we sing from the same hymn sheet.

She has no health problems and wants more people to do this.

Who knows - maybe one day it won't be so unusual. I hope so.

BBC Scotland Investigates - Buying Hope: Selling Illegal Organs is being broadcast on BBC One on Wednesday 9 July, at 2245 BST.

Kidney mother and son doing well
23 Jun 08 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
Medics mull organ donor options
09 Jun 08 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
'Sympathy' for organ donor change
13 Jan 08 |  Scotland

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