During my customary morning trawl through the pages of the BBC News website, I was shocked to stumble upon an article about a 17-year-old boy in China who has recently sold a kidney in order to buy an iPad.
Assuming/hoping that the headline would prove to be misleading, I proceeded to read about the antics of “Little Zheng.” As I read on, my jaw [almost literally] dropped. The young Chinese boy had been lured into a preposterous arrangement – £2,077 for one of his kidneys – by an advert on the internet. Little Zheng’s parents knew nothing of the whole affair until he brought home an iPad and a laptop – probably a rather tactless move on his part! I guess the rather large scar across his stomach would have been something of a giveaway too…
So a boy sold his kidney to buy a computer, but what of it? People in the UK are always donating organs without an eyelash being batted; why is this particular case newsworthy?
The story of Little Zheng is unique in that it raises a lot of moral questions. Yes – what happened was illegal and dangerous, and Zheng showed a remarkably awful decision-making proficiency. But I think the shock factor of this article lies beneath the illegality of Zheng’s actions and the health risks entailed.
Firstly, I’d like to explain why it is so universally unacceptable for humans to sell body parts for personal wealth. I take no issue with those who wish to donate organs posthumously; in fact, I’d say that it makes a lot of sense to do so. The issue in Zheng’s case was that he sought to sell his kidney for personal gain, ignoring the interests of the man with a greater need. Organ donation is not illegal in China – in fact, the legal operations are performed by much more highly-trained and skilled surgeons – so Zheng cannot argue that his act was one of goodwill. “I’m saving a life” is a legitimate reason to lose a beautifully crafted and fairly important part of your body. “I’m getting the latest iPad, a new suit and a laptop…but it’s okay because I’m saving a life” is not. No no no.
So what drove the Chinese teen to such take such drastic action in his pursuit of the latest technology? I have no doubt that his desperation stems from a mixture of advertisement-induced compulsion to purchase and a strong degree of peer pressure. I don’t know Zheng’s background, but I’d suspect he is one of two “scenarios”; he is either “the poor kid with rich friends” or “the cool kid with a reputation to maintain”. I should be a psychologist. If this is the case, I’d argue that the fickle nature of commercialism and the brisk advancement of technology proved detrimental to his decision-making capabilities, and regularly have the same effect on other members of the younger generation.
I’ve barely scraped the surface of an issue that could be debated and discussed for hours upon hours, but I’ll leave the thinking up to you. If you want to read the original article, you can find it here [although there’s not much there that I’ve not mentioned]. You can form your own opinions, but in my mind there are very few things that I’d give an arm and a leg for. An iPad 2 definitely doesn’t make that list.