Popular culture side-swipes reality when it comes to organ-theft. Organ theft is a “trope” (a recurring motif, AKA cliché) in many Japanese anime and manga, and in American comic books, video games, and television (C.S.I.; Law and Order; Justified, Futurama). Examples:
Robin Cook, Coma (1977). The recent development of successful transplantation techniques suddenly creates an imbalance between the supply of and demand for organs, so a black-market arises. A deranged doctor in a Boston hospital induces comas in healthy patients undergoing minor procedures, then harvests the organs.
“Coma” (1979). The movie version of the book, directed by Michael Crichton.
1989: a Turk came to Britain, sold a kidney, got stiffed on the payment, and lied to the police that he had been robbed of a kidney. This is the origin of the urban legend about “I woke up in a bath tub full of ice…”
“Death Warrant” (1990). No one cares what happens to the inmates in maximum security prisons. An evil warden, corrupt guards, and a greedy doctor, kill inmates to harvest organs for sale on the black market. The very institutions that guard us are actually criminal.
“The Harvest” (1993). Writer goes to Mexico, gets robbed of a kidney, tries to find the people responsible, partially succeeds, and then finds out that his boss has just had a transplant.
Christopher Moore, Island of the Sequined Love Nun (1997). Predatory missionaries.
“Dirty Pretty Things” (2002). Hard-pressed illegal immigrants in Britain sell organs.
“Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” (2002). Hard-pressed South Korean factory worker sells a kidney to save his sister’s life, gets cheated, she dies, and he wreaks a bloody vengeance.
“Shichinin no Tomurai (The Innocent Seven)” (2005). Seven groups of abusive parents get an offer from a mysterious figure. They’re likely to either kill their kids or lose them to the child welfare people. Why not make a different kind of “killing” by selling the children so that their organs can be harvested? A week at a mountain vacation camp will close the deal. This may reflect Japanese discomfort with transplants, plus the Aum Shinrikyo terrorist cult.
Kazuo Ishiguru, Never Let Me Go (2005). Test tube babies + cloning = human spare tires for when you come down with some life-threatening disease. Your liver goes? Just pop one out of the “donor” you paid to have created many years ago. Now everyone can live to be 100! In the meantime, the future donors are raised in ignorance of their intended function.
“Turistas” (2006). The developed world has exploited the developing world for centuries. (See: Andre Gunder Frank.) Now it is time for reparations. A deranged doctor abducts gringo tourists who visit a remote beach resort. He harvests their organs, which are donated to the poor in a Brazilian hospital.
“Repo! The Genetic Opera” (2008). In the sinister future a big corporation supplies organs for transplant on credit. Transplant technology has progressed so far that you can get replacement intestines and spines. If you fall behind on your payments, however, the company sends around some guys to re-possess your implanted organ, just like your car or washing machine. The consequences aren’t the same as having your car or washing machine repoed, however. You die. The movie is a musical.
Eric Garcia, Repossession Mambo (2009). Uses the same sinister future/big corporation/buy on credit/get repoed premise as above. Adds bio-mechanical organs/people hiding from their creditors and being hunted by repo men twists for product differentiation.
“Repo Men” (2010). The chop-socky movie version of Garcia’s novel.
“Never Let Me Go” (2010). The excellent movie version of Ishiguro’s novel.