Carmen Ghia

Resident Smartphone User

Authorities have indicted five people in central China for involvement in illegal organ trading after a teenager sold one of his kidneys to buy an iPhone and an iPad.

The case has prompted an outpouring of concern that not enough is being done to guard against the negative impact of increasing consumerism in Chinese society, particularly among young people who have grown up with more creature comforts than the generations before them.

Prosecutors in the city of Chenzhou charged the suspects with intentional injury for organizing the removal and transplant of a kidney from a 17-year-old high school student surnamed Wang, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

A woman on duty at the Chenzhou Beihu District People’s Procuratorate in Hunan province confirmed that prosecutors are handling the case and that the defendants are facing charges of intentional injury.

She refused to give her name and referred further questions to the city-level procuratorate’s media office, where phone calls rang unanswered.

The defendants include a surgeon, a hospital contractor, and brokers who looked for donors online and leased an operating room to conduct the procedure, Xinhua said.

It said about 1.5 million people in China need organ transplants, but that only about 10,000 transplants are performed each year, fueling the illegal trade in organs.

Xinhua described one of the defendants named He Wei as being broke and frustrated over gambling debts. It said he asked another defendant to look for organ donors in online chat rooms and someone else to lease an operating room for the transplant, which took place in April last year.

He received 220,000 yuan ($35,000) for the transplant, gave the student 22,000 yuan ($3,500) and shared the remaining money with the other defendants and several medical staff involved in the operation, Xinhua said.

When the student returned home, he was asked how he could afford a new iPhone and an iPad and he told his mother that he sold one of his kidneys, the report said.

The Southern Daily newspaper reported last month that other individuals have sold, or seriously considered selling, their kidneys to earn money for reasons that included paying off large debts, making a payment on a smartphone, or paying for an abortion for a girlfriend.

“Without facing complete hardship, these young people born after the 1990s made rash decisions. In the choice between their bodies and materialism, they resolutely chose the latter,” the official Communist Party newspaper Guangming Daily said in an editorial late last month about the Southern Daily report.

“In today’s society where desires are infinite and demands are boundless ... blindly competing with others in the pursuit of high-end ‘technology’ will gradually ruin lives,” it said.

We are living in what’s become known as the “age of instant information.” Modern technology has produced gadgets that allow us to just type in or ask a question and then find several sources for the answer.

If I want to know what movies are playing this weekend, I can go to apps downloaded on my smartphone that will tell me not only what’s playing, but the theaters, times, actors, movie plots, ratings and reviews. I can press another button to purchase tickets, and email friends to meet me there in time for the previews to start.

If that was something I wanted to do over twenty years ago, I would have had to get a newspaper and some quarters for a pay phone. So, why is it not surprising that kids who may not be old enough to even remember the 90s, are going to desperate measures just to be able to do what most people nowadays can do?

Perhaps it’s just a generational thing, but when I was a teen and I wanted something my parents were not willing to buy for me, I would find part-time work and save up until I was able to get whatever it was I wanted.

Times may have changed, but selling an organ would never have occurred to me–nor would I have ever considered it. Baby sitting, or ringing up and bagging groceries sounds a whole lot less extreme. But that’s just me. Teens today clearly have different priorities.

What’s also shocking about this story is the medical professionals who risked losing their licenses to practice just so they could make extra cash selling much needed body organs on the black market. When you stop to think about it (which they obviously didn’t) you have to wonder if it’s all really worth it?

It seems like each time some new technological invention comes out and becomes “common place,” it gets to where we wonder how we ever lived without it. I can remember a world where no one had cell phones, microwaves, or personal computers, and somehow, we managed to get through it. In fact, I can even remember when I was the remote control for the TV, and there were only five channels!

Perhaps modern technology has made life a lot easier for us–it has practically put the world at our fingertips–but when having the latest technology becomes an obsession, it may help to step back, get your priorities straight, and maybe do without it for a while.