According to pamphlets distributed by the New Day Clinic, you can get the body part you want within a week, with the transplants being done at their world-class medical facility.
A price list for organs - including kidneys, livers, hearts, guts and veins - were displayed on the clinic’s website.
It claimed you can buy a kidney for just over R3.5million, while a patch of skin will set you back R140 per square centimetre. Eyes are sold for just R2000 each, while a second-hand spleen will cost R7 000. A shocked motorist reported that a “Nigerian woman” dressed in a surgical mask and white latex gloves handed out the pamphlets. Sounds like a script from a movie? It is.
The dark world of illegal organ trading will be highlighted in Africa’s first medical thriller movie called Bypass, set to hit cinemas early next month.
The movie stars local actors Natalie Becker-Aakervik, Hakeem-Kae Kazim, Deon Lotz and Greg Kriek. The issue of illegal organ trade was on the lips of many South Africans after the news of the clinic selling organs in Cape Town for millions of rands hit the streets.
Pamphlets were circulated at traffic lights with information regarding the New Day Clinic, which directed people to a website with a price list for various organs.
South Africans took to social media to express shock at the website but it was part of the movie’s promotional campaign - designed to draw attention to a trade that is very real.
In 2007, the World Health Organisation estimated that out of all transplants worldwide, 5%-10% were conducted illegally.
In 2011, it was estimated that the illicit organ trade generated profits between $600million (R8billion) and $1.2billion per year. Underground markets pose a significant threat to the security of national organ donation systems.
There is a long list of more than 4300 people awaiting solid organ and cornea transplants in South Africa.
This does not include the thousands of people who do not make it onto the waiting list as they don’t have access to the facilities or treatment required to keep them alive while they wait.
“In the case of patients in renal failure, if they do not have access to dialysis they will not be placed on the waiting list. There are not nearly enough dialysis machines in South Africa and the result is that many patients are sent home to die,” said Samantha Nicholls from the Organ Donor Association of South Africa. Less than 2% of South Africans are organ donors.
In Durban, 19-year-old Matthew Legemaate from Hillcrest is among one of the many people who are on the list. Legemaate has been waiting for a heart and a bilateral lung for six years.
Not long after his birth, Legemaate was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot and severe pulmonary atresia, a congenital heart defect which has required five open-heart surgeries thus far. His only hope now is if he receives a new heart and lung. His mother, Janet, said every day was an uphill battle for Matthew and his family.
“We know what it has been like and it’s every parent’s worst nightmare to watch their child have to suffer throughout their lives. Matthew’s case is also more complicated because he has a rare blood type.
“If you no longer need your organs in the case of death, it’s an incredible gift that you can give towards changing someone’s life. More people need to become organ donors because we really are suffering in South Africa,” she said.
The producers of Bypass, husband and wife Shane and Bianca Vermooten, hope that those who watch it will become organ donors and contribute to the solution.
"If there were sufficient legal organs available the need for a black-market trade would decrease significantly,’’ said Nicholls.
Their aim is for Bypass to send a clear message: organ trafficking is a frightening reality that preys on the desperation of the wealthy and the vulnerability of the poor.
Shane Vermooten said he believed in the concept that “every human life was of equal worth”. The movie explores a mother’s love for her dying son and makes us question how far we would go to save our own child’s life.
Visit bypassmovie.com to view the trailer, learn more about the movie and sign up to become an organ donor.