The Red Market by Scott Carney – Book Review

The Red Market: On the Trail of the World’s Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers, and Child Traffickers is a non fiction book about organ trade. The author of this book, Scott Carney, an American investigative journalist and anthropologist, was born on the 9th of July, 1978. He has authored four books – The Red Market, The Enlightenment Trap, What Doesn’t Kill Us and The Wedge. Scott Carney has also worked as a contributing editor at Wired magazine and contributes stories on various issues to Mother Jones, Men’s Journal, Playboy, Foreign Policy, Discover, Outside and Fast Company. Several radio and television programmes including National Geographic TV have covered his works.

This book is an account of various organ trade practices prevalent in the world. The title of the book ‘The Red Market’ – a term coined by the author – refers to a black market place for trafficked human body parts. 

“I weigh just a little under two hundred pounds have brown hair blue eyes and a full set of teeth. As far as I know my thyroid gland pumps the right hormones into the twelve pints of blood that circulate in my arteries and veins. At six feet and two inches I have long femurs and tibias with solid connective tissue. Both my kidneys function properly and my heart runs at a steady clip of eighty-seven beats per minute. All in I figure I’m worth about 250 000.”

It contains accounts of an Indian village – nicknamed ‘Kidneyvakkam’ – notorious for its citizens selling their kidney to meet ends, grave robbers in remote villages, a temple that sells the hair of its devotees, child kidnappers who sell kids to adoption centres, and the practice of surrogacy and surrogate mothers. His book provides a detailed and informative account on numerous ways by which the trade of organs is carried out. His information is backed by a thorough research that spanned for years. 

“our appetite for human flesh is higher now than at any other time in history.”

This author manages to capture the plight of people forced by their fate to sell their organs to sustain their livelihood, how the anonymity of the buyers is maintained, how the trade is carried out through agents, the economics of the red market and how it is affected by various laws in different countries. The writing style is clear and makes one feel like an observer of the events being narrated making the book an insightful one.

“People don’t go to a transplant center to buy medical services: They go to buy organs.”

The book manages to paint a sufficiently clear enough picture of things that benefits even a person not acquainted with the subject. The book benefits from the background research and the experiences of the author. The interviews of various people involved in the practice helps in better understanding of the events and supplying contextual facts. Despite all this, some parts and arguments advanced by the author tend to feel vague.