Five people in China were arrested in connection to a teen who sold his kidney for an iPad and iPhone.
Last summer, a 17-year-old known as Zheng sold his kidney to afford an iPad and an iPhone. Prosecutors in Chenzou are prepping their case against five alleged conspirators, including a surgeon and the man who arranged the kidney transplant for about $35,000, and say Zheng's renal deficiency is growing more serious.
Chinese customers have gone to extreme lengths to get their hands on the latest Apple handsets, with another young person offering her virginity in exchange for a new iPhone.
The incident sparked outrage about consumerism's impact on Chinese society, and the court may make examples of the five suspects during their upcoming trial.
Meanwhile, Apple is focusing on the other end of the production line in response to workplace issues. The company made improvements in its Chinese Foxconn factories, hiring extra workers, cutting down on illegal overtime and sprucing up working conditions. This benefits Foxconn employees but is expected to drive up the costs of the product, making the trendy gadgets even harder to come by for teens like Zheng.
China only outlawed selling organs in 2007, and since most people in need of a transplant do not get one, the underground market is still thrives. The desire for the latest technology -- and the boom for luxury products for a rapidly emerging economic power -- is likely to push others to consider selling blood or organs in the future, especially if the prices increase.
Although obsession with technology makes people desperate enough to sell body parts, the same technology also sets up ways to donate the same organs. In the U.S., people are using Facebook and other social networks to find potential donors, who willingly give up their blood, tissue and organs for free. Zheng would likely see this as a bum deal, although these donors, who have the leisure time to recover from a voluntary surgery, probably have the means to buy Apple products if they want them.
This indictment shows how people who should know better are trying to profit from a cultural obsession with having the latest and greatest technology. Cases like this are unlikely to go away where desire outpaces economic realities.