The sordid organ trafficking seen in “The Market Heart” by Netflix

The Netflix series portrays an illegal business that, according to experts, is more a myth than a reality since the medical conditions for a transplant procedure are not easy to obtain.

Ayda María Martínez Ipuz

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After discovering that his wife Camila faked her death to disappear from his life, Zacarías Cienfuegos devises a master plan to bring her back and take revenge on Simón, the man whose wife was killed to transplant her heart into Camila, and whom she fell in love with.

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This is the story of "The Market Hearth," a Netflix series that is now in its second season and is currently the most successful Colombian-produced series on the platform. The truth is that there is very little fiction in the reality of this sordid activity.

Organ trafficking is a fact that operates in illegality and affects thousands of people around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 10,000 transplants in the world (between 5% and 10%) are carried out under some form of commercialization or are ethically and legally unacceptable.

Moreover, the phenomenon has generated a type of tourism that moves between the need and poverty of those who see organ selling as a way out of poverty. Organ trafficking is mainly concentrated in countries such as Pakistan, Ecuador, and Colombia, while those who pay for organs are mainly in Israel and the United States.

The worst part is that not all transplants have a fortunate outcome, as between 40 and 70% of transplant tourists develop at least one infectious complication, and of those, 20-50% suffer a deadly infection caused by antibiotic-resistant organisms.

The reality is that there are very few organs available for transplant, which supports this bloody business where the wealthy can buy them at any cost. At the same time, this opaque business has led the public to postpone or not make the decision to donate them to avoid being associated with an unjust, inhuman, and even macabre system.

"Recent surveys in our country point to the perception by the population of transplants as a good health service as the main predisposing factor for organ donation, with all that implies of cleanliness and equity in the whole process. From what has been exposed so far, it can be inferred how absurd it would be at this point to deny the existence of organ trafficking in the abstract. However, under this generic name, real and fictitious facts are grouped that have almost nothing in common either conceptually or technically, but which have been mixed sometimes in an irresponsible way, due to ignorance," explains Dr. Rafael Matesanz of the Spanish National Transplant Organization.


For the expert, the mixture of causes for this phenomenon, some demonstrable, others fiction or rumor-based, are intertwined with myths, beliefs, and terrors that have harmed global advances in transplants. "There has been an attempt to delimit the problem with such catchy words as 'selling-stealing and killing,' the division of the concept vulgarly known as 'organ trafficking': kidney buying and selling, criminal organ procurement, or tissue trafficking seems more accurate in Spanish," the expert said.

However, the expert advises caution when dealing with the issue, as a transplant requires demanding facility and professional conditions. "Because what any expert knows are the technical conditions for obtaining a solid organ and the requirements for shipping and maximum ischemia times. None of this could ever be detected, and nothing, therefore, suggests that anyone was sacrificed to transplant their organs. The matter is much simpler and certainly less sophisticated, although much less known by the public opinion: tissue trafficking," added the expert.

However, a work of fiction like "The Market Heart" keeps its viewers attentive. Now that Zacarías is the right-hand man of the president and has the support of The Organization, the terrible organ trafficking gang, he will do everything possible to make Simón experience the same hell that he did. His intention is clear: to show that sometimes there is no other option but to become a killer for love, an argument that for the protagonist is far from feeling loved, and instead questions the actions that have resulted in a state of anxiety, fear, anguish, and constant threat for her.

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