National Geographic Explorer just aired an hour long documentary on the global market for human body parts. In the program they interviewed a Chinese doctor who helped remove organs from executed prisoners and transplanted them into foreign medical tourists. It also documented the painful lives of people awaiting organ transplant in the United States and flew out to Chennai to interview the donors and brokers who have made this coastal metropolis the worlds most famous organ farm. I worked with the documentary team for a month and helped coordinate the India piece of the puzzle. My job was to locate a donor and a broker who could give a personal look at the kidney trade. Much of the research I did was based on the WIRED News series that released in May. Here’s a clip from the documentary.

What isn’t mentioned in this clip, but is talked about in the larger documentary is that Mallika isn’t only the victim of a predatory broker and corrupt medical institution. Her son is a victim as well. A year after her surgery her son Kannan came down with a bad case of jaundice that destroyed his kidneys. Unable to giver her remaining kidney, now she has to watch her son suffer and possibly die because he has no way of getting a donor organ.

The program aired on November 11th and 15th at 8:00 PM. But I’m sure you will be able to catch a rerun some time.

And you didn’t catch it: The “National Geographic Safe House” in Chennai was my apartment.