The National Kidney Foundation Dispels Rumors About Illegally Harvested Kidneys

New York, NY
April 2, 2000

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 one or both kidneys.

The foundation has received calls from concerned business travelers who have been warned by their travel agents to beware of the ‘crime ring’ when traveling. “It’s an urban myth run amok,” says Fred Herbert, chairman of the National Kidney Foundation. “There is no evidence that such activity has ever occurred in the United States,” says Mr. Herbert.

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 donor process,” says Mr. Herbert. “In truth, transplanting a kidney from a living donor involves numerous compatibility tests 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,” he explains.

This 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. None of the supposed victims, however, are 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.

The National Kidney Foundation is concerned that the unfortunate hoax will affect the public’s willingness to become organ donors at a time when more than 68,000 Americans are awaiting life-saving organ transplants and 13 to 14 people on the waiting list die each day. To receive accurate information about the organ donor process or a free organ donor card, call the National Kidney Foundation at (800) 622-9010.