The Upshot

Charges filed against five who removed teen’s kidney

The Upshot

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Last year, a Chinese teen sold his kidney to raise money to buy an Apple iPad and iPhone. Now, five people, including the surgeon who conducted the operation, are being charged with "intentional injury."

According to prosecutors, the boy, who was 17 at the time of the operation, has suffered from renal deficiency, a serious medical condition in which the kidney fails to filter toxins and waste from the blood stream.

[Related: Stem cell therapy could boost kidney transplant success: Study]

The story is steeped in both tragedy and intrigue. The boy, who has not been publicly identified, hails from one of China's poorest provinces. When his mother saw her son with a new iPad and iPhone, both highly sought in China, the son admitted that he sold his kidney to pay for them.

News of the illegal surgery first broke last year. The boy spoke to a Chinese TV station. "I wanted to buy an iPad 2, but I didn't have the money," the boy said. "When I surfed the internet I found an advert posted online by agent saying they were able to pay RMB 20,000 to buy a kidney." That's the equivalent of about $3,100.

[Related: Kidney transplant patient seeks life without drugs]

According to reports, the boy received only about 10% of what the kidney buyer paid. The rest went to the surgeon and others involved in arranging the operation. The operation was conducted in a hospital room that had been rented out.

Though China has banned the selling and trading of organs, the practice still occurs on the black market. According to a report from the Health Ministry, "1.5 million patients need transplants each year, but only 10,000 organs are available." Many of those seeking organs come from other countries.

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