Not Just Urban Legend

by Jeneen Interlandi
Jan 10, 2009

Organ trafficking was long considered a myth. But now mounting evidence suggests it is a real and growing problem, even in America.

By the time her work brought her back to the United States, Nancy Scheper-Hughes had spent more than a decade tracking the illegal sale of human organs across the globe. Posing as a medical doctor in some places and a would-be kidney buyer in others, she had linked gangsters, clergymen and surgeons in a trail that led from South Africa, Brazil and other developing nations all the way back to some of her own country's best medical facilities. So it was that on an icy February afternoon in 2003, the anthropologist from the University of California, Berkeley, found herself sitting across from a group of transplant surgeons in a small conference room at a big Philadelphia hospital.

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