The Organ Traders

An investigation into illegal human organ trading in Kosovo, Turkey and Israel, and the challenges facing law enforcers.

Turkey, 27 of April 2007 – The police raid a private hospital in Istanbul. Several people are injured in a shoot-out with armed robbers.

When the police search the building they discover a secret operating theatre. Medical staff caught red-handed performing two illegal kidney transplants are detained.

It’s the 4th time that Dr. Yusuf Sonmez, the main surgeon and owner of the clinic, is getting arrested. He claims to have carried out 4,000 kidney transplant operations and since their legality is being questioned the Turkish media calls him Dr. Frankenstein.

The recipients of the kidneys are a South African and an Israeli male. Both men paid over 200,000 USD in order to obtain kidneys, one of them from an Israeli Arab girl. It is the fact that the organs were sold for money, which makes these transplants illegal.

In May 2012 this raid on Sonmez’s clinic resulted in a ten-year prison sentence. But Dr. Sonmez continues to evade arrest.

Most governments around the world have banned the sale of organs because they fear the exploitation of poor and vulnerable people. But an estimated 8,000 kidneys are still transplanted illegally every year by brokers and surgeons prepared to break the law.

In “The Organ Traders” we travel to Kosovo, Israel and Turkey to unravel Dr Sonmez’s alleged network. Meeting prosecutors, doctors accused of illegal transplants and organ recipients we ask why it is so difficult to fight illegal organ transplants and why brokers and especially surgeons keep slipping the law.