surgery scar and iphone

Teen Who Sold a Kidney for an iPhone Is Now Bedridden for Life

Many people will go to great lengths in order to get their hands on the latest and greatest technology. Some will camp outside electronics stores for days, waiting for the new iPhone to hit the shelves. Others will use their student loans to pay for these expensive devices. Few people, however, have sacrificed as much as one teen who sold his kidney to pay for the latest Apple products.

Sadly, this young man is now learning the true value- or lack thereof- of these devices. Years later, he is suffering from organ failure. He may never walk again.

The Teen Who Sold His Kidney

In 2011, then seventeen-year-old Wang Shangkun wanted to buy an iPad 2 and an iPhone 4, but he didn’t have the money. The Chinese teenager was on the internet when a kidney agent sent him a message. This person told Wang that he could get him twenty thousand yuan for his kidney [1].

Not long after, the teenager had an illegal operation, in which a black-market surgeon removed his right kidney. The organ was then sent to an unknown recipient. In the end, his kidney got Wang 3500 US dollars, which paid for his new electronic devices [2].

A few months after the surgery, however, Wang developed an infection in his remaining kidney. Doctors believe that this was due to the unsanitary location of the operation, as well as a lack of post-operative care. 

Eventually, Wang suffered organ failure. Today, the now 26-year-old is bedridden and requires daily dialysis in order to remove toxins from his blood that his kidney can no longer handle. Ironically, doctors say that Wang now needs a transplant of his own.

Shortly after the surgery, however, authorities arrested nine people who were involved in the operation. They have charged five people, including the surgeon, the broker, as well as the person who approached Wang in the chatroom [2].

Read: How to Hear and Delete Everything Google Has Recorded You Saying

China’s Organ Trade

China suffers from a massive organ shortage. Many people in China believe that the body is sacred, and it should be buried fully-intact to show respect to their ancestors. As such, China has one of the lowest rates of organ donation in the world. 

For context, China has about 0.6 donations per million people. By contrast, Spain has 37 per million. The United States has 26 per million, and Canada has 20.9 per million [3,4,5].

For years, China used prisoners as donors in order to meet demand. In 2015, however, Beijing publicly committed to ending this practice after receiving significant international backlash.

Instead, the government set up a national organ bank. The purpose of this bank was to find organs that are the best match for individuals and to distribute them to those who need them most. Unfortunately, critics say it is easy for people with connections to bypass the waitlist and abuse the system.

In 2016, the Chinese government claimed that they had performed ten thousand organ transplants. An independent report by the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China, however, says this number is very low. The coalition estimates that sixty to one hundred thousand transplants occur in the country annually. This is a strong indication that illegal organ trade is alive and well [6].

With approximately three hundred thousand people waiting for an organ transplant in China, the huge demand has created a thriving black market. Here, a human kidney can sell for more than 250 thousand dollars US. For this reason, the organ market lures people in who are struggling with massive debts or financial pressures [3].

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A Dangerous Trade

As Wang’s story indicates, the illegal organ market is incredibly dangerous. In some cases, it can be life-threatening. Sadly, for some it is the only way they can get the organ they so desperately need. Those who wait to receive one legally often end up waiting until they die.

In China, convincing the public to donate organs is a crucial step in addressing the organ shortage. This will lower the demand for organs on the black market, which could pave the way for ending the dangerous trade.

Sadly, it is too late for the teen who sold his kidney. Now, he is also at the mercy of a broken system that has a woefully inadequate supply. One poor decision has changed his life forever.

Keep Reading: If Your iPhone Has a Green Dot in iOS 14, Your Camera May Be Spying On You


  1. Teen Who Sold a Kidney for an iPhone Is Now Bedridden for Life.” Vice. Gavin Butler. January 28, 2019.
  2. Chinese Teen Sells Kidney For iPad And iPhone.” NPR. Melisa Go. April 7, 2012.
  3. China’s black market for organ donations.” BBC. Martin Patience. August 11, 2015.
  4. Organ Donation Rates: How the US Stacks Up.” ABC News. Sydney Lupkin. June 19, 2013.
  5. End Transplant Abuse

This article originally appeared on The Hearty Soul and has now been published here with permission.