In China, like the United States, the culture of consumerism has gripped the younger generations hard.
So hard, in fact, that a class of “invisible poor” exists in the country, who seem glamorous on the outside – with designer suits, expensive habits, and posh apartments – yet often live paycheck-to-paycheck on a low income. They are poor partly because of their obsession with the good life, as represented by the high-end goods whose advertisements bombard them during every waking hour.
For 25-year-old Wang Shangkun in Anhui province, the allure of such goods – in this case, an iPhone and an iPad – proved devastating and has left the young man not only dependent on a dialysis machine but also bed-ridden for the rest of his life.
In 2011, a then-17-year-old Wang sold one of his kidneys to black market organ harvesters for the equivalent of less than $3,300 (or 22,000 Yuan) so that he could afford the latest Apple products. He later purchased an iPad 2 and an iPhone 4.
According to China Network Television, Wang had long dreamed of buying the tablet to impress his friends but his family, who lived in one of the poorest provinces in the country, was unable to afford it.
Human organ harvesters eventually contacted Wang in a chat room and offered him cash for his kidney.
“Why do I need a second kidney? One is enough,” Wang said at the time.
Without telling any of his family, Wang secretly traveled from Anhui province to the south of Hunan province, where his right kidney was removed in an operation and given to an unknown recipient.
Upon returning home with his brand new gadgets, his suspicious mother forced him to confess.
But Wang’s real trouble began when his health began sharply deteriorating due to the unsanitary conditions of his surgical procedure and the lack of postoperative care that followed. In a matter of months, an infection of Wang’s remaining kidney led to outright organ failure, forcing Wang to give up school.
Eight years later, Wang is in such a severe state that he’s likely to live the remainder of his life confined to his bed, requiring dialysis every day to clear his blood of toxins as a result of his kidney failure.
If not for the social benefits provided by the Chinese government, his family would likely not be able to afford his health care needs.
Nine people were arrested in connection with the illicit organ sale, including five surgeons. A leader of the gang had made arrangements to hire a surgeon who worked at the nearby military hospital.
While China banned the human organ trade in 2007, the country’s developing market economy has widened the social gap between the extreme rich and the poor while an enormous gap still exists between organ donors and those requiring a transplant.