It is another sign that shows that consumers in China are beginning to become as materialistic as those in Western countries. Desperate for the electronics they cannot afford, some are turning to organ "donation" as a last resort.
It's not an urban legend: the story originates from the official Chinese news agency Xinhua, which isn't wont to print faux sensationalistic stories.
Prosecutors in the city of Chenzhou charged the five suspects, one of which was a surgeon and another a hospital contractor, with intentional injury. Chenzhou is a city of about 4.5 million people in Hunan province in central China.
The 17-year-old high school student involved was surnamed Wang. The leader of the operation, a man named He Wei, was in need of money to pay off gambling debts. He allegedly received approximately $35,000 to obtain the kidney, out of that the student was paid about $3,500. In addition, the lead defendant also paid for rental of a medical facility and for the medical staff.
When the student returned home, his mother was asked him how he could afford a new iPhone and an iPad. He confessed to the operation, and his mother reported the incident to the authorities.
According to Xinhua, about 1.5 million people in China are in need of organ transplants, but only about 10,000 transplants are performed each year. Illegal trade in organs is their only recourse, and thus these sorts of operations are not uncommon.
Although this story centers around an iPhone and iPad, somewhat ironic because of the role China plays in the manufacture of the devices, it's not the only reason for this illegal trafficking. In March, the official Communist Party newspaper Guangming Daily, commenting on an report in the Southern Daily paper, said the following in an editorial:
“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.
“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."