Selling kidney to raise cash, a phenomenon thus far known only in Third World countries, is catching up in the West too. Cash-strapped Britons are auctioning off their kidneys to the highest bidder, newspaper reports say.
Offering to sell an organ is an offence under the Human Tissue Act and carries a maximum penalty of three years in jail plus a fine, even if the seller is willing to travel abroad for the operation.
But such is the desperation resulting from the current economic difficulties that people are would go to any extent to pay their mortgages.
A 26-year-old mental health nurse hopes to be paid £25,000 from an American desperately in need of a transplant.
The man, who has a two-year-old was left £20,000 in debt when a business collapsed.
He told an undercover reporter posing as a close friend of a man in need of a transplant: 'I lost a lot of money and got into debt with people you wouldn't want to get into debt with when I tried to save the business.
'At the moment my situation is dire. I need to pay my debts, otherwise my life is just...not going to get any better.
'I've made my choice. I can't see any other option.
While it is perfectly possible to lead an active, healthy life with just one kidney, there are risks associated with any major operation and around one in 3,000 donors die from infections, bleeding or blood clots, it is pointed out.
As is the case with many other countries, there is an acute shortage of organs for transplant in the UK.
Keith Rigg, president of the British Transplantation Society, said: 'There are a lot of people desperate to receive and organ and a lot of people deep in poverty and desperate to get money and this is one potential way they see of doing that.
'But I would advise them not to do it because it is illegal. And if they are going abroad for the donor operation there is a risk they won't get the necessary follow-up and there is a risk of dying from that.'