The National Kidney Foundation Dispels Rumors About Illegally Harvested Kidneys

New York, NY
April 4, 1997

A persistent rumor that has been circulating for the past ten years has recently been reborn on the Internet: a business traveler has a drink with a stranger and wakes up in a tub full of ice, minus both kidneys.

The foundation has received calls from concerned business travelers who have been warned by their travel agents to beware of this 'crime ring' when traveling. "It's an urban myth run amok," says Dr. Wendy Brown, chairman of the National Kidney Foundation. "There is no evidence that such activity has ever occurred in the United States," says Dr. Brown.

Although this story is unfounded and untrue, many who hear it believe that this could really happen. "It is unfortunate when inaccurate information is reported about the Organ and Tissue Donor process," states Dr. Brown. "In truth, transplanting a kidney from a living donor involves numerous tests for compatibility that must be performed before the kidney is removed. So it's highly unlikely that a gang could operate in secrecy to recover organs that would be viable for a transplant," Dr. Brown explains.

That much-traveled e-mail message gives specific details about incidents in New Orleans and Las Vegas, with embellishments by other Internet users that seem to give credence to the story, but none of the supposed victims is ever identified. In an effort to dispel this urban myth, the National Kidney Foundation is asking any individual who claims to have had his or her kidneys illegally removed to step forward and contact the foundation.

Dr. Brown is concerned that the unfortunate hoax will affect the public's willingness to become Organ and Tissue Donors at a time when more than 50,000 Americans are awaiting life-saving organ transplants and nine to 10 people on the waiting list die each day. She urges the public to call the National Kidney Foundation at 1-800-622-9010 for accurate information about the Organ and Tissue Donor process and to receive a free Organ and Tissue Donor card.