In 2011, a 17-year-old took the extreme decision to sell one of his kidneys so he could afford to buy a new iPhone and iPad.
Eight years later, now aged 25, the man reportedly requires round-the-clock care and is bed-bound due to the surgery and its repercussions.
At the time, the teenager, identified only as Xiao Zheng, was paid 22,000 yuan (£2,000), and underwent the surgery in central Hunan Province in southern China.
Trying to hide the procedure from his family, the teen secretly travelled from his home in the eastern Anhui Province.
Speaking to CNTV, Xiao Zheng said:
At the time, I wanted to buy an iPad2, but I didn’t have any money. When I was on the internet, I had a kidney agent send a message, saying that selling a kidney can give me 20,000.
Arriving in Hunan Province, the teenager was met by the surgeons who carried out the operation to remove his kidney. He was discharged after three days.
According to The Telegraph, trading organs online is quite common in China, despite its government trying to stamp out the illegal practice. In 2011 it was reported a that a group of ‘transplant tourists’ had paid £50,000 to get new kidneys in China.
The black market for organs is fuelled by the demand for transplants. According to statistics, more than one million people need a transplant every year in China, but fewer than 10,000 actually receive one.
When the boy returned home from his operation, he could not hide what he had done from his mother, known as Miss Liu.
She told BBC News:
When my son came home he had a laptop computer and an Apple phone. I asked him where all the money for that came from. When he couldn’t keep it to himself any longer he finally told us. He said, ‘Mum, I sold my kidney.’ When he told me I felt like the sky was crashing down on our family.
Miss Liu reported the illegal operation to the police, and though the hospital initially denied any knowledge of the operation, five people were arrested in 2012, charged with intentional injury for the post-operation complications the teenager suffered, according to Cult of Mac.
The people arrested includes the surgeon who removed the kidney, and the person who arranged the transplant.
The family were awarded 1.47 million yuan (£169,000) in compensation.
After the operation, Xiao Zheng’s health deteriorated, his wounds became infected. He now reportedly suffers from renal deficiency, is dependent on kidney dialysis to survive, and has to live on benefits as he is unable to work.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.