When I took time off from college to backpack around Asia, I heard at least a dozen versions of the following story:
the victim — we’ll call him “Bob” — was on a business trip alone somewhere in Europe, and went out to a bar one night to have a cocktail. Wouldn’t you know it, he woke up the next morning in an unfamiliar hotel room with severe pain in his lower back. He was taken to the emergency room, where doctors determined that, unbeknownst to himself, Bob had undergone major surgery the night before. One of his kidneys had been removed, cleanly and professionally.
That story is an urban legend, and it has been so widely reported and debunked, that FBI and hospital officials would not believe anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes when she told them of real traffic in organs by organized crime back in 2002. Eventually she got support from law enforcement in Brazil and South Africa, and the FBI finally came around. The recent FBI bust in NY and NJ, which was initially reported as a “money laundering” operation, turns out to have also involved some the organ traffickers reported by Scheper-Hughes. Newsweek has an in-depth story, and Somatosphere explores some of the more anthropological aspects of the story.