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Organ Theft

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"Oh, for the love of— Not again!Wait a minute... One... Two... Oh, this is serious."

"There was this crazy albino guy with a hook, and he lived in a mirror! And if you even look at him, you'd wake up a bathtub full of ice with your kidneys gone!"
Donkey, Scared Shrekless

Organ Theft, as the name would imply, is the practice of stealing people's organs via surgery, which can then be used for further purposes such as transplants or sold on the Black Market.note  One particularly common variant of this trope is the "kidney theft" Urban Legend, in which the victim is conned somehow and drugged into unconsciousness, and then wakes up kidney-less, crudely stitched up in a bathtub full of ice in a cheap motel, often with a message attached telling them to go to a hospital.

At first glance, it may seem plausible because if the wealthy, powerful Big Bad is on death's door and needs an organ tomorrow, they do have a motive to get that kidney by any means necessary and they have henchmen willing to kidnap a victim. But beyond that point, organ theft fails the logic test for a few reasons:

  • Organ transplant requires lots of specialized equipment to remove the organ and keep it viable for transplanting — equipment not generally found outside a hospital. Yes, bad guys can steal or buy basic medical equipment, but this is unusual gear. Theft or purchase would raise red flags.
  • How will The Syndicate assemble an entire surgical team? Yes, bad guys can force or pressure one down-on-their luck doctor (who owes money at the casino) to sew up a mook after a robbery, but getting a whole surgical team for an illegal, non-consensual transplant is implausible.
  • In the standard version, the perps display a monstrous disregard for the victim's human rights — yet they apparently still care enough to keep them alive. (To potentially file a police report no less).
  • Organ transporting containers are huge due to the amount of dry ice needed — the thieves would stand out to any witnesses they passed.
  • Organs need to be checked for compatibility, both for blood chemistry and size. Also, the recipient would be highly vulnerable to any infectious disease the donor might be carrying. A random victim offers no guarantees on any account.
  • It takes a lot of surgical skill and medical knowledge to extract a living organ and keep it in a condition where it can be transplanted successfully to another patient. You'll be hard pressed to find a Hippocratic Oath-bound surgeon willing to do this. Not to mention they're generally too well paid to need to resort to crime.
  • It's the organ that needs to be kept on ice, but the legend always seems to involve the patient being left in a bath of the stuff, sedated — a great recipe for hypothermia.
  • Aside from cannibals (who are obviously far too small a demographic to profitably market to) and surgeons (who have too much to lose —their license and social status— to resort to kidnapping-based acquisition, done in league with The Syndicate), who on Earth would the alleged perps even be selling these stolen, roughly-extracted organs to, and what potential customers would want C-grade black market organs for?

This trope was popularized by, and originated with, Larry Niven's Known Space, in which Organ Theft is called "organlegging", a portmanteau of "organ" and "bootlegging". (The Niven variant makes more sense, though, since in the stories, they do take everything useful and kill the donor during the procedure).

Needless to say, this trope is a potent source of Nightmare Fuel, Medical Horror, Rule of Scary and Fridge Logic (why not steal multiple organs and kill the victim instead of leaving a witness?). Sub-Trope of Human Resources. Super-Trope of Brain Theft.

In a science/sci-fi setting, this trope might occur if the person who loses their organ had it happen because of someone experimenting on them. Contrasts with Kidnapped for Experimentation: why bother performing a quick on-site surgery to when its easier to just take the whole person?


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Battle Angel Alita uses this early on, except with cyborg spines, which are probably much more removable than any human organ.
  • Defied in the first chapter of Black Jack. A Spoiled Brat crashes after reckless driving and is on the verge of death, so his influential father hires the legendary surgeon Black Jack. To provide the necessary organs, the father sentences an innocent boy to death so that Black Jack can harvest his organs in a simultaneous operation. Instead, Black Jack gives the innocent boy plastic surgery to look like the brat, along with enough money for him and his mother to flee the country.
  • Cyberpunk: Edgerunners:
    • David almost finds himself on the receiving end of this when an unscrupulous EMT notices just how valuable his Sandevistan implant (which is essentially his spine replacement) is and decides to take it for a payday while he's barely conscious and hooked up to a stretcher in no position to fight back due to overuse of said implant. Luckily for him, Lucy bails him out of that situation (and the ambulance). He almost finds himself on the end of it again when Lucy's boss, Maine, shows up looking for that same Sandevistan since it was supposed to be his in the first place (he even paid in advance), but they're able to hash things out into a job offer.
    • This is heavily implied to be how David's mother Gloria managed to make ends meet for their struggling financial situation. Using her position as an EMT, she had easy access to steal cyberware from the corpses she works with. Maine, one of her more notable buyers, notes she was a good earner, and the military-grade Sandevistan David acquires and was supposed to go to Maine was scavenged off a dead Cyberpsycho that she herself zipped up and put in the back of the ambulance.
  • Fabricant 100: A MO for Fabricants is to kidnap humans and steal their high-grade body parts, normally killing the unfortunate. Some keep kids with them until they group up.
  • An episode of the Get Backers anime features this, though in a more realistic manner. The organ, a heart, has already been extracted in a legitimate medical operation, but the ambulance transporting the organ is then intercepted and hijacked by mercenaries. Ban and Ginji are then contracted by the father of the heart's intended recipient, a sickly girl, to retrieve it in just a few hours since the refrigeration unit will not be able to keep the heart good for very long.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex:
    • One episode features a trio of medical students who sell discarded organs on the black market. Major Motoko Kusanagi later threatens to sell their currently-in-use organs on the black market to Scare 'Em Straight by pretending to be a member of the Yakuza, who actually do sell organs on the black market.
    • A later episode deals with girls being kidnapped so that their organs and cybernetics can be sold off, which was apparently based on a public scare blaming North Korea for doing this to Japanese people.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean, this is the Stand Marilyn Manson's modus operandi. In order to repay gambling debts, it will take valuable items from the loser, and considering how much organs sell for on the black market...
  • This happens to Plucky Girl Sakura Tomoe in an early episode of Knight Hunters. Because this is Knight Hunters, though, it isn't a bathtub that she wakes up in, it's an entire swimming pool full of ice. Unfortunately for her, the organ thieves in question later decide that they're tired of doing things by halves.
  • The Wolkenritter hunting Linker Cores in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's is the magical equivalent, though they're being used to fuel an Artifact of Doom and they naturally grow back over time.
  • Genetically transferred powers in Naruto tend to be tied to specific organs that can be transplanted into others. Eyes, arms, hearts, entire bodies — you name a body part, ninja are stealing it from each other. The Uchiha clan even have a Deadly Upgrade whose downsides are negated if using stolen eyes. In most cases, the organs are harvested from ninja who were killed in battle.
  • In One Piece, Trafalgar Law's Devil Fruit allows him to steal the hearts of people, either for a quick kill, to blackmail them into doing his business, or as an insurance that they won't attack him later on, as he does with Smoker, Tashigi, and Monet.
  • Ray the Animation: Ray had her eyes stolen when she was a child; Black Jack replaced them with eyes capable of X-Ray Vision. As it turns out, she was literally made for this purpose.
  • Time Stop Hero: It is eventually revealed that the reason why Otomi, Otaki, and Okiku have lived for hundreds of years is that they captured some darklings (demons), harvested their livers, and transplanted them into their bodies. The darklings died in the process.
  • One episode of Trigun features a town which deals in smuggling girls who sell their bodies as potential organ donors and as prostitutes.
  • In Vandread, the Harvesters raid human colonies for specific organs and tissues, such as the reproductive organs of the crew's homeworlds. The Harvesters were created by humans on Earth who, faced with a population collapse, became obsessed with lengthening their lifespans and came to view the colonies as organ banks.
  • In an episode of Wolf's Rain, some muggers tell our heroes there's a market for healthy young organs. Of course, our heroes are only disguised as humans and aren't about to part with their organs.

    Audio Plays 
  • In the Big Finish Doctor Who audio play Spare Parts, the Doctor encounters Thomas Dodd, a Back-Alley Doctor dealing in recycled organs that he gets from desperate people on Mondas who sell their own or that of recently deceased relatives. He can't resist when the perfectly healthy Doctor turns up and tries to lock him in his organ freezer. Later the Doctor gets his cooperation by promising one of his hearts (he doesn't have to pay because Dodd gets dragged away to be turned into a Cyberman).

    Comic Books 
  • In the "Heart of Hush" arc of Batman, Mad Doctor Hush kidnaps Catwoman and removes her heart, keeping her alive by elaborate machinery and using her hostage heart to blackmail Batman.
  • Clean Room invokes this as explanation for Anika Wells' abduction and medical experimentation. It's nowhere near the truth.
  • A two-part Daredevil storyline revolves around organ trafficking, courtesy of a criminal who calls herself the Surgeon General.
  • One issue of Zenescope's Grimm Tales of Terror features as its Villain Protagonist a woman who is part of an organ theft ring, acting as a Honey Trap at hotel bars to lure her targets up to a room where she gives them drugged drinks; once they're unconscious, she removes the organs she's been paid to collect and then leaves her victim in a bathtub full of ice. In the obligatory Karmic Twist Ending, she falls victim to this herself, as her latest mark is actually another organ thief, who drugs her and leaves her to wake up in an ice bath minus all her limbs, which are then delivered to a Corrupt Corporate Executive for his fetish collection.
  • One of Howard the Duck's more persistent nuisances is "the Kidney Lady", an annoying old battleaxe who believes Howard to be the ringleader in a kidney-stealing conspiracy.
  • Judge Dredd:
    • In Mega-City One organ transplantation is illegal because it has advanced to the point that it can render an individual immortal. Organ selling is a prevalent crime throughout Mega-City One.
    • Contradicting the above is the storyline "Under Seige", which features a legal organ-buying company called Kidney Hut, which became the only business still operating in the "self-sufficient" Patrick Swayze Block when the industry that was supposed to provide all the residents with jobs fell through. As they get more power in the block, they move to quasi-legal organ theft, since their "family plan" contract supposedly gives them carte blanche to seize anyone related to the person who was desperate enough to sign. This is a major factor in the residents taking back the block, with the last words of the Kidney Hut manager being "We're providing a public service!"
  • Justice League of America: In 'JLA: Year One'', the Brain comes into possession of a 'genegraft ray' which instantly and cleanly transplants organs of its targets. The Brain ends up pulling an All Your Powers Combined thanks to the Flash's legs, Green Lantern's arm, Martian Manhunter's eyes and Black Canary's vocal cords.
  • A two-part JSA Classified story arc with Dr. Midnite features a villain harvesting super-powered body parts to sell to wealthy patrons in the black market. The gruesome part is that the heroes whose body parts are stolen are often left alive after the procedure and basically crippled. Midnight lampshades just how ridiculous it is that the urban legend has been made real, given how strange it is that any of the victims survive their unwanted surgery.
  • Organ theft (a.k.a. "organleggers") is a common crime in the original Marvel 2099 comic book line for victims who cannot afford to pay for police protection.
  • In My Little Pony: Friends Forever #25, three thieves steal Rainbow Dash's wings with magic and attempt to use them to turn themselves into Alicorns. If the transfer could not be reversed in time, Dash would have lost her wings permanently, crippling her and potentially ruining her life. You know, for kids!
  • New X-Men features a group of villains who call themselves the U-Men, humans with a major fanboy affection for mutants... which drives them to "jump up the evolutionary ladder" by hijacking their superpower-oriented organs. This often leaves the mutants dead, and occasionally leads to the U-Men suffering organ rejection.
  • In the Sin City yarn "Hell and Back", the protagonist finds that the Big Bad is into organ theft, among other things.
  • In Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, Tarn (the leader of the Decepticon Justice Division, a team of psychopaths — even by Decepticon standards — who hunt down Decepticons who betrayed the cause) is addicted to transformation. He made a deal with Pharma to provide him new T-cogs which are taken from other Transformers every time he burns out his own. He's gone through a lot of T-cogs.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade (Vault): A group of vampire hunters in Winter's Teeth called the Wolves in Sheeps' Clothing hunt down the undead in order to do this. They surgically graft the vampires' organs to themselves and gain some of their powers.

    Fan Works 
  • Johnny is taken by an organ harvest ring in the Emergency! fic "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"
  • In the Turning Red fanfic The Great Red Panda Rescue, Mei is kidnapped and gets her appendix harvested for experimentation.
  • Hidden Frontier cast member Rebecca Wood (posting under her character name) claimed this had happened to a friend of her cousin. She became quite cross when forum friends gently pointed her to After all, her mother and cousin wouldn't lie, would they?
  • Subverted in Promstuck. It seems that Snowman has done this to Jack in the epilogue, but then he remembers that he's a carapace and doesn't have any organs that could be called kidneys.
  • Seventh Endmost Vision: The Big Bad, Lucrecia, did this to Ifalna by stealing her eye... and implanting it in her own skull. She's made almost no attempt to hide the change; multiple characters have figured out a rough date for the change by looking at photographs of her, since there's photos of her before that show her with her two natural brown eyes, and all photos after show her having the one green eye. Ifalna, at least, thinks she did it to see as an Ancient would see.
  • In the Spice Girls fic Case of the Missing Technology, if Unwilling Roboticisation wasn't enough, the narrator had to inform Simon after discovering what happened to Melanie's original organs apart from her brain, "Black market, I'm afraid. How else he makes his money to put innocent people through?" Melanie C had to get biomechanical replacements, via 3D printer.
  • Halfway through Spider-Ninja, Raphael is unconscious in SHIELD's medical bay. Dr. Connors, believing that the Turtles' mutated DNA might hold a clue to genetic alteration, steals some of Raph's blood to further his experiments and possibly grow his arm back. This comes back to bite him, as the serum he makes with the mutagen turns him into a giant lizard. When the Hamatos learn about this, they're a little upset.
  • A Game of Cat and Cat: "Doctor Dude" is an odd case. He has removed the appendixes — just the appendixes — of many of his living patients, and takes all the organs of anyone who happens to die on his operating table — even though he does his best to treat them. It is unknown why he is taking people's organs, as there's no indication he is involved with the Black Market. When asked about it he more or less says that the body is nothing but a bag of meat after the spirit has departed for the next cycle or Karma. Though given what game he comes from...
  • In Monkey's Paw of Doom, Gaz uses her second wish to ask for a new house (after losing her old one as a result of a previous wish), and promptly wins a mansion in a housing lottery. Despite Dib's warning that it's an obvious scam, she goes to the "lottery" headquarters to collect, and is promptly chloroformed by the scammers, waking up awhile later in a bathtub full of ice and missing a kidney.

    Film — Animated 
  • The plot of Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero revolves around Mr. Freeze kidnapping people who share the same blood type as his wife, which includes Barbara Gordon. She (correctly) points out that he could use any negative blood type to save her until it's revealed he's actually kidnapping them for this trope, and being as obsessive as he is is going after the same blood type to reduce the risks of rejection.
  • In Turning Red, this is Played for Laughs. One of Mei's classmates offers one of her kidneys in exchange for Mei providing her with more experiences of Mei's giant red panda form.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In 12-Hour Shift, nurse Mandy and her cousin Regina regularly deliver organs to a trafficking ring. One night, Regina delivers her boss a cooler with just a soda, thinking she had placed the organ bag in the cooler. The boss makes it clear: she either delivers a kidney or she will serve as donor.
  • In Andhadhun, Dr. Swami runs an organ harvesting operation.
  • Art of the Dead: While possessed by Envy, Donna murders the Alpha Bitch head cheerleader Tiffany, amputates her breasts, and gives herself a 'boob job' by transplanting them on to herself. She does the same thing with Tiffany's lips.
  • Awake (2007): Clay and his mother joke about this as a solution to having to wait for his turn on the heart transplant list.
    Lillith: I'm serious this time. Let's go to China, try out luck on the black market.
    Clayton: Why don't we just go outside, grab some random person, drag him in here and, y'know...
    Lillith: Sounds good to me. Drag 'em in and cut 'em open! Hey, whatever it takes, right?
  • In the 2015 section of Back to the Future Part II, a headline reads "Thumb Bandits Strike Again". In The Future, all transactions are carried out via thumbprint ID. The filmmakers speculated that this could lead to a new type of crime, where thieves cut off the thumb of their victim and use it to make illegal purchases, like stealing a credit card.
  • Central Station: Dora the retired schoolteacher sells Josue, an orphan, to two people whom she thinks are running a black-market adoption racket, but who apparently are actually organleggers. She goes back and rescues the boy before he can be chopped up.
  • In Cradle of Fear, Nick Holland is an amputee who is unable to engage in sexual activity with his girlfriend Natalie due to his frustration with the loss of his left leg in a prior accident. Nick visits his old friend Thomas and shoots him in the head. He then removes Thomas' left leg, puts it on ice and has it transplanted to himself by his doctor overnight.
  • The Jason Statham action movie Crank: High Voltage starts with the main character getting his heart stolen. He then proceeds to kick ridiculously large amounts of ass while trying to keep his replacement organ running.
  • Corrupt prison officials in Death Warrant have prisoners killed to sell their organs for profit.
  • Dirty Pretty Things: the film revolves around illegal migrants yielding to terrible pressure and selling their kidneys to an organlegging outfit, and one Nigerian surgeon being strong-armed into working for them. The film ends with the protagonists stealing a kidney from the Big Bad who is running the operation, in order to give it to the client in place of the intended victim's. As you can see, this film has the trope all sewn up in a back room.
  • Donor is a horror film about a government worker who registers homeless people with the authorities, only to get sucked into a horrifying conspiracy when it turns out the Disposable Vagrants are being murdered and their organs harvested by a Russian crime ring.
  • Feeding Frenzy: Mr. Plinkett is ultimately revealed to be killing people to harvest their organs and rebuild his family from their parts.
  • In the German made-for-television film Fleisch, also known as Spare Parts, a young couple are enjoying their honeymoon in the American Southwest, when suddenly the husband is kidnapped by armed men in an ambulance. The wife escapes at the last minute, and enlists the help of a local truck driver in helping her locate her missing husband. Together, the uncover the existence of a vast international smuggling ring supplying the world's wealthy elite with organs stolen from healthy young people.
  • Hitchhiker Massacre: The killer has an unseen boss that he converses with over his phone, who pays him for bringing him organs. At one point, the killer is seen sawing a victim's organ out.
  • Hrudaya Geethe: Dr. Prasad, the chief doctor of a mental hospital, is harvesting his patients' organs. First, he is running an "involuntary confinement for pay" scam in which certain people who are an inconvenience are designated as mentally ill and confined for the right price. Those people are then "prescribed" a tonic which is actually a poison that causes them to have painful spasms. To "treat" this, they are sent to surgery where they die and their organs are semi-legitimately harvested.
  • In The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, this turns out to be what Tony did to the children of his charity. He had previously claimed the reason for his disgrace was doing business with Russian gangsters in order to fund the charity.
  • Iron Man 2: Referenced and subverted when Tony Stark meets with Nick Fury and Black Widow at a donut shop. Widow injects him with a dose of lithium dioxide to counter the symptoms of his palladium poisoning and help him focus, but until they explain, Stark thinks this trope is in effect:
    Tony Stark: Oh, God, are you gonna steal my kidney and sell it?
  • Through a series of odd events in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Jay and Silent Bob find themselves hitchhiking with Mystery Incorporated (just don't ask). After a dream sequence in which they all get high, it is revealed that Jay and Silent Bob have fallen asleep, whereupon the gang decide to "sell their kidneys on the black market and leave them in a seedy hotel on ice". Of course, that was also just a dream.
  • The creature from Jeepers Creepers commits periodic fatal organ thefts, for reasons that had more to do with hunger than transplantation.
  • Koma's plot revolves around a series of organ thefts.
  • The main bad guys of the Korean film The Man from Nowhere are Triad gangsters operating in South Korea that engage in organ harvesting. When they kidnap a girl named So-Mi, the little neighbor of protagonist Cha Tae-Sik, to have her eyes harvested, things quickly turn out bad for them.
  • In The Man Who Could Cheat Death, Dr. Georges Bonnet has taking to attacking people in the street and extracting the glands he needs to manufacture his elixir.
  • Anderton buys a pair of black-market eyes in Minority Report, so he can get past the retinal scanners that are literally everywhere.
  • An unlucky fellow in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life had some gentlemen come to collect his liver, on the grounds that someone needed it and he'd filled out a liver donor card. Too bad for him he wasn't done using it...
    Mr. Brown: Listen! I can't give it to you now. It says, "in the event of death"!
    Man: Well, nobody who has ever had their liver taken out by us has survived.
  • Muggers has a pair of students steal organs from the most hateful people in their lives, after they get the idea from taking a kidney that just happened to be compatible with a patient from a man who had jumped off a tall building. Worse, they run afoul of a gang led by a nurse and two ambulance officers at the hospital, who simply take organs indiscriminately and don't want any competition.
  • The Pet: The main antagonists are slavers who harvest organs.
  • Repo Men: The Union is a company that supplies cybernetic organs to people who need them, but unfortunately their contracts have the clause that if the recipient misses too many payments, the Union will send Repo Men to collect the organ even if that means the death of the recipient. The plot kicks into high gear when one of said repo men ((Remy, The Hero) falls behind in payments for his own artificial heart, leading to him becoming a target for repossession.
  • Repo! The Genetic Opera: GeneCo makes artificial organs, which they repossess if a customer misses too many payments. The Repo Man is in charge of doing the actual repossessing, which usually results in the customer's death. Not for nothing are they often considered "legal assassins."
    "Ninety-day delinquent gets you Repo Treatment!"
  • In RoboCop (1987), is said that OCP Corporation owns the cadavers of their employees (even if the employee is not quite dead yet).
  • Discussed in Saw when Adam looks over his body and tells Lawrence that they're in a typical organ theft situation where someone has kidnapped them, took their kidneys and put them on sale in eBay. Lawrence assures Adam that's impossible, because if he had lost his kidneys, he would be in extreme pain or already dead.
  • Scream and Scream Again involves a Mad Scientist assembling a Master Race from body parts. At the start of the film, a jogger collapses from a heart attack. When he wakes at the hospital, he discovers his leg has been amputated. Every time the movie cuts back to him, another limb has been amputated.
  • In the 1998 Donnie Yen movie Shanghai Affairs, Donnie plays a doctor in a rural town who ends up investigating a series of mysterious murders involving children being found dead with their organs removed. Turns out Donnie's mentor (and one heck of a Broken Pedestal) is the mastermind behind an organ trafficking ring, and is specifically targeting the children of poor townspeople because "nobody will miss them".
  • The Thai horror film, Sick Nurses, revolves around a doctor and his nurses who secretly sells organs in the black market. The plot is kicked off when one of those nurses attempts to leave her organization and threatens to spill their activities to the public, which predictably leads to her ex-colleagues kidnapping and eliminating her for knowing too much; however her spirit comes back seeking revenge.
  • The Korean movie Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is about a man who sells his organs on the black market to get enough money to pay for his sister's hospital bills but is soon cheated out of his life savings.
  • A major plot point in Toy Story 4 is that the Big Bad has a voice box just like Woody, only hers is broken, so she seeks to steal his. The equivalence to organ theft is never stated outright, but the fact that the toys view their stuffing and other innards the same way we view our organs is. Woody is even knocked unconscious for the operation.
  • In Trespass (2011), the robbers threaten to remove Avery's kidney if her father Kyle doesn't cooperate.
  • Train: Travelling aboard a Russian train, a college wrestler and her teammates fall victim to a gang of sadistic thieves harvesting human organs.
  • Turistas and Train turned out to be about this sort of thing.
  • Urban Legends
    • One of the legends referenced by the serial killer in Urban Legend. Of course, the killer admits that they are not too good at anatomy and will probably just grab the first major organ they see.
    • This is the first kill used in the sequel, Urban Legends: Final Cut, which was tagged on when it was realized that the film didn't have that much to do with actual urban legends.
  • Vitals revolves around a man who wakes up to find that his kidney was removed by organ harvesters, led by a man called Kaliyah.
  • Don't Go Near the Park! features a cannibal brother-and-sister duo who retain their youth by murdering young people and feasting on their internal organs, which they routinely harvest by ripping oppen the stomachs of their victims and taking organs to eat.

  • One of the later Alex Rider books, Snakehead, uses this as a justification for the villain keeping Alex alive yet again. He has Alex taken to a hidden facility where his various organs will be removed one-at-a-time (finishing with the heart) and sold to wealthy customers, allowing him to recover what Alex has cost him. Alex doesn't stick around.
  • In Animorphs, a group of Andalites come to Earth to assassinate Visser Three (or so they claim). The actual sniper is a Boxed Crook named Aloth arrested for trying to sell the organs of warriors who fell in battle.
  • Blood Books: Blood Debt deconstructs this as Vickie comments it is an incredibly weird and impractical trade due to how much trouble you'd get in for little financial gain. Also, you could get the organs from much easier sources.
  • Bubbles in Space: In the future with so much cybernetics and attempts to live longer, this is a thriving market. Bubbles comments that there's more bodies than missing persons. This is Foreshadowing that the organ traffickers have been targeting refugees from the Barrens.
  • In Rick Griffin's short story Bravo Charli Charli's biker gang is coerced by a cartel boss to transport a sealed cooler to Santa Fe within seven hours. Halfway through the story she finds out it's a human heart.
  • Burke mentions a Noodle Incident in which he acted as a go-between for a wealthy family seeking a heart for their dying child. He collects the heart, implied to have been taken from a child murdered for the purpose.
  • Coma features a conspiracy of organ theft in the hospital system. Apparently, they started using hospital patients who were already comatose, but demand (and profits) is such that they start artificially inducing brain death in healthy patients undergoing surgery to get more victims, drawing the attention of the protagonist.
  • The Igor clan of Discworld is known to harvest organs or limbs... but only postmortem, and mostly from people who have received a transplant performed by an Igor at some point in their lives. The Igors also practice this extensively upon themselves/other Igors, and when an Igor says he's got his father's eyes, he's not being metaphorical.
  • In one of the Doctor Who Expanded Universe novels, this one is done rather weirdly. The Doctor is ill because something is the matter with one of his hearts. The villain thought transplanting a Time Lord's heart to himself would help him time travel, so he stole it, curing the decaying heart problem but creating a new, massive-hole-in-the-Doctor's-chest problem. Good Thing He Can Heal. One of his hearts was a link to Gallifrey, which he'd destroyed in "The Ancestor Cell" (different Time War).
  • In Dream Park's South Seas Treasure Game, an early confrontation with the power of the Fore occurs when the villainous tribe launches a supernatural attack on the Daribi village. While conjured giant birds beset the Gamers, the aged Daribi chieftain's belly caves in on itself, his liver "eaten" by the Fore tribe's evil magic.
  • In Eveless Eden by Marianne Wiggins, an Intrepid Reporter discovers that the Romanian diplomat his girlfriend ran off with runs a company involved in selling blood products (everything from plasma to skin cream, as well as blood itself) taken from Ceausescu's hellish orphanage system. Thanks to the incompetent way the orphanages are run, HIV-tainted blood has long ago entered the system.
  • Every Heart a Doorway: When the murders start, the first victim has her hands taken — while she's still alive. The second loses her eyes in the same way. The third, her brain. The killer is trying to create a "skeleton key" — a girl who will allow her to open any of the Doors to otherworlds.
  • Iron Widow: Like other condemned prisoners in Huaxia, Li Shimin had one kidney and part of his liver taken for transplants. Zetian is aghast at how the damage could affect his Life Energy in the long term.
  • Island of the Sequined Love Nun has two Big Bads convincing an island full of people that they are the personification of the local Cargo Cult gods. It turns out they have a database composed of the natives' medical information and are running an on-demand black organ market, harvesting (among other things) kidneys, hearts, and corneas.
  • In Kea's Flight, this has been known to happen to women who go to back-alley abortionists.
  • The Known Space series is the Trope Maker. Prior to the invention of cloned organs to replace failed ones, the demand for replacement organs is so high that lawmakers make more and more crimes punishable by death penalty, with the organs of the punished being harvested for use. Naturally, such a high demand makes it a high profit item, which attacts criminals who become as "organleggers" who are even less picky than the legal system about whose organs are harvested. Eyes in particular are noted to be in high demand, for criminals who wish to fool retina scanners.
  • Kronk has roving "Bounty Hunters" who harvest the bodies of anyone who can't fight back and resell the organs to hospitals.
  • In the Legends of Dune prequels it is claimed that the Bene Tleilaxu were originally slavers and organ dealers. They claimed that the organs were cloned but during the Butlerian Jihad the vats couldn't meet demand so they ripped most of them from captured slaves too injured to work.
  • The Malaussène Saga: Protagonist Benjamin falls in a coma during Write to Kill and a corrupt doctor takes advantage of it to explant all of his organs. He later gets better thanks to a massive case of Contrived Coincidence: the novel's Big Bad, who was just killed in the very same hospital room, incredibly happens to be histocompatible and his organs are used to replace Benjamin's.
  • In Never Let Me Go, the protagonist and her fellow students willingly submit to having their organs removed; they're all cloned humans created for the specific purpose of organ harvesting.
  • The Number of the Beast has Lazarus Long mention how he'd never engage in killing people to strip them of their organs, but he knows of several planets where you could point someone out, and a thug would quote you a price and ask which parts you want and "when and where did you want them delivered?" (he's giving the explanation to point out that there are some places where you can buy anything).
  • A government version occurs in A Planet Named Shayol by Cordwainer Smith, in which criminals are made to grow extra limbs and organs for harvesting and use in transplants.
  • The novel Raylan by Elmore Leonard features a couple crooks doing this, but in a variation they're not selling the organs to others, but essentially holding them hostage for money from the person they were taken from, bypassing the whole comparability issue.
  • The concealed Evil Plan of Transcending Limitations centers on this trope. Kaiba Gunrai wants to kidnap Annala and extract everything from her, organs included, because she has been Touched By Volrons and he wants to replicate this for super soldiers that he can sell, in addition to boosting other industries, such as magical reagents. The victim isn't killed because her Healing Factor means she can't be killed, and more importantly for her captor, he can collect multiple copies of each organ.
  • Unwind exaggerates this in the most horrific way possible — not only is the process legal, it's used as a way to get rid of unwanted children and supported and run by the government. More typical of the trope are the Parts Pirates, who capture kids not specifically marked for unwinding, basically kidnapping them and shipping them to private unwind facilities. It's stated that in China, they don't even take all of you at once, which the lead Parts Pirate in North America finds revolting.
  • The dictator assassinated in the opening scene of Use of Weapons has used off-world technology to make himself young. There's a mention that his current heart once belonged to a young female anarchist, implying that dissidents executed by the state are being harvested.
  • In The Wandering, the "murders" on Neshi's homeworld are all for the sake of supplying the government with organs, and not just for organ replacements, as Neshi finds out.
  • In World War Z, Fernando Oliveira describes his participation in the transplant of a black market heart obtained from a "donor" in China. Unbeknownst to the recipient and the transplant team, China happened to be in the early stages of a Zombie Apocalypse at the time. The doctor goes on to suggest that this was the cause of many other Solanum outbreaks outside of China at the time.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: Wolfram & Hart's subsidiary health care operation, the Fairfield Clinic, operates a body parts bank where organs are harvested from still-living prisoners. As magic is involved, this naturally leads to an Evil Hand plot.
  • The Aquabats! Super Show! features the "in transit" variant: the Aquabats are assigned to transport a replacement brain to Governor Robot, and the villainous Silver Skull is trying to steal it from them — with Governor Robot incapacitated, Silver Skull will be able to usurp his authority. In a twist, he succeeds by impersonating the very general who gave the Aquabats the job in the first place.
  • Blake's 7: In "Powerplay", Cally and Vila are picked up by a hospital spacecraft from the neutral planet of Chenga, rescuing survivors from the battle against the Andromedans. Chengan society split into two factions, the Primitives who wanted to live the simple life, and the High-Techs who embrace it. Unfortunately, the Primitives are being hunted and captured by bounty hunters so their organs can be used for Human Resources, and it turns out the hospital ship isn't missing the opportunity provided by the wide-ranging battle. Only a last-minute Teleportation Rescue saves our heroes from being dissected.
  • Variant on Bones, where bone and other tissues were being stolen from corpses. Unfortunately one of those corpses had cancer, and Booth's boss was not amused when his daughter contracted said cancer from one of said grafts.
    • A later episode had this as the suspected motive for a murder, as a body missing several organs was discovered. Turns out the victim was killed in a blind rage; the killer felt guilty but couldn't bring him back to life, thus brought his body to an "organ dealer" so he could possibly save someone else's life. They do explore the organ black market, but the organs there are either purchased from living but desperate people or taken from corpses at a funeral home.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Gentlemen from "Hush" need to steal seven human hearts for reasons that are never explained. In order to harvest the organs they take the voices of the entire population of Sunnydale so their victims can't scream for help.
  • Shows up from time to time on Charmed (1998).
    • In its classic form, one episode features a doctor gaining the sisters' powers via blood transfusion and losing his mind because of it. He uses the newfound powers to steal organs from criminals who had been treated at his hospital.
    • Wendigoes are formed when one person steals and eats another's heart. They then transform into monsters on the "three nights of the full moon" to continue eating hearts.
    • In possibly the weirdest (and least explained) version, the succubus kills men in order to drain them of their testosterone.
  • The Teaser of the CI5: The New Professionals episode "Choice Cuts" played the Urban Legend version entirely straight. The villains left the hotel room telephone right next to the ice-filled bathtub along with a note: Call 911 or you will die!, but the victim (an FBI agent) dies anyway thanks to having both kidneys removed.
  • Criminal Minds likes this trope and its variations.
    • There's Frank Breitkopf in Season Two, whose entire MO is sedating his victims and removing their organs while they were still alive, getting off on the fear on their faces as this was happening. It's unclear what he does with the rest of the organs once his victim is dead, but it is known that Breitkopf takes a rib from each of his victims to make a wind chime for his love interest.
    • "Blood Hungry" has a killer taking organs which he believes house the human soul. He (or possibly his mother) returns one of the organs to the crime scene in a Tupperware container. The victims were already dead when he took the organs, and he keeps them to eat (or maybe just to admire them), not to transplant. He's more than a little crazy.
    • "The Eyes Have It" has a killer who steals his victims' eyes to use in taxidermy.
    • Another episode features a Jack the Ripoff who is said to have taken the kidney from a victim, just like Jack himself.
    • "God Complex" comes closest to the Urban Legend described in the trope (in Criminal Minds classic, at least), only it's not internal organs the UnSub is stealing — it's legs. The first victim is left in a motel with his leg stolen, but no ice bath or note. The second victim gets a note, but is dropped off just outside the ER. He's the one who dies, because the UnSub amputated his leg, sewed the wound closed (poorly), then opened it back up to attach the first victim's stolen leg. The UnSub at least has a sterile(-ish) facility to perform the... operations.
    • There was also a variation, where instead of stealing the organs himself, one man started killing organ donors in the hopes that his daughter would get a liver. It nicely sidesteps the issue of transport and removal (he even dropped one victim off at the hospital and called 911 before committing the other murders so EMTs would get there on time), but it still didn't work out how he wanted.
    • Each of the spin-offs has had its own take on the trope as well.
      • Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior had an episode where a man was attempting to harvest women's skin to graft onto his daughter's face. The team pointed out how futile this idea was, but he wasn't exactly stable.
      • The Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders episode "Harvested" plays out the Urban Legend from the description, with a healthy dose of Surprisingly Realistic Outcome, in that the victim dies. The killer wasn't even concerned about the organs' viability. His dead father had his liver, corneas, and heart donated (properly, by doctors in a hospital setting) and he believed he needed to replace them so that his father could be complete in the afterlife.
  • CSI:
    • Organ-legging is mentioned in "Justice is Served" after a jogger turns up dead with his liver and a couple other organs removed. At the end of the episode, it turns out that the killer took the most blood-rich organs to make into a health elixir, convinced that that it's the only thing preventing her from becoming sick.
    • Another episode has organs being taken from dead bodies that were processed in a specific crematorium.
    • In the CSI Trilogy crossover storyline, young women were abducted and smuggled cross-country by a network of criminal truckers. While most were forced into prostitution, those girls who fought back against their captors became salable body parts.
    • Yet another case involved two brains stolen from cadavers. The first was that of a boxer who'd committed suicide due to neurological damage from repeated head trauma, and who'd asked that his brain be examined posthumously to diagnose this. The second was swiped from a freshly-entombed corpse to exchange it for the first brain, by a trainer who didn't want the boxer's brain tested for steroids.
  • CSI: Cyber: In "Fit-and-Run", the motivation for a series of kidnappings and murder turns out to be a father and a husband desperate to find a replacement kidney for a dying woman. The episode ends in a The Bad Guy Wins situation — the team arrests the duo, but the older man, who was a recently retired surgeon, has already finished transplanting one of the final victim's kidneys into his daughter, with both said final victim and daughter having survived the transplant surgery.
  • CSI: NY:
    • One episode has an organ being stolen after it's legitimately removed, with a murder or two in the process. It turns out that the transplant surgeon at the recipient's hospital is behind the theft because his wife is dying and needs it.
    • Yet another episode has a corrupt ex-coroner who's been stealing organs and tissues for a different reason — to process them for the drugs they contain; the victims are all dead drug addicts from cases that came through his morgue.
  • In Desperate Housewives, Katherine thinks she's found the perfect guy until she finds out that he's been to prison for doing this. Of course, every adult living on Wisteria Lane has committed multiple felonies, but this is the one crime that's too much for them to accept.
  • Doctor Who: "The Brain of Morbius" is about a Mad Scientist trying to steal the Doctor's head, which he wants to finish off his Frankenstein's Monster.
  • The Firefly episode "The Message" turns out to be about this. Tracy has to pretend to be dead to transport (and incubate) some super-viscera, and despite the stated cost of the organs, the guys who go to recollect shoot to kill. In a way, Tracy kind of does this to himself, because the way he's smuggling the organs is that he had all of his replaced. Then he decided to go for a better offer, forgetting that the other people STILL had his original organs.
  • Forever Knight had an episode with an organ theft ring. The first body was found dead in a dumpster, and later, Natalie almost ends up getting her heart stolen when she goes in for knee surgery by a desperate surgeon whose daughter was dying. Averts some of the problems with this trope, but not the compatibility one.
  • In the Fringe episode "Marionette", the villain of the week is stealing back the donated organs of a girl he's obsessed with in an attempt to bring her Back from the Dead. The villain is actually something of an Apologetic Attacker who makes attempts to leave his victims alive long enough for emergency services to stabilize them once he's finished harvesting the organs.
  • In one episode of Grimm ("Organ Grinder"), teenage runaways are kidnapped and their organs harvested to sell on the black market, as human organs are used to make illegal drugs for wesen.
  • An episode of Hannibal has the Behavioural Sciences Unit hunting someone who is taking organs to sell on the black market and doing a dodgy job of keeping his victims alive. They initially think it might be the work of the Chesapeake Ripper, a notorious Serial Killer who removes organs from his victims before killing and mutilating them, but we already know who the Ripper really is and what he's doing with the organs. The Ripper winds up using the organ harvester's activities as a smokescreen to do some, ehem, grocery shopping.
  • The Haven episode "The Farmer" had Harry Nix. His Trouble is that he suffers from progressive organ failure, so he must regularly steal organs to replace his own. He can sprout a tentacle that can suck the victim's organs out of their body and absorb it. He is aware of the problem with organ compatibility, so he targets his illegitimate children from when he donated to a sperm bank. To make matters worse, his children run the risk of developing the same condition and being forced to harvest organs as well.
  • On Heroes, Claire jokes that she has used her regeneration powers to sell a kidney for quick cash.
  • Human Giant: A hypno-therapist steals Aziz's kidney while he's under. Then the paramedic who finds him knocks him out and steals his hair (for wigs). Then the the cop who finds him after that knocks him out and steals his ice from the bathtub and his right testicle.
  • Done slightly more realistically with the witness of the week on In Plain Sight. It was a doctor removing kidneys from gastric bypass patients, since they are operating in the same area and the patient is likely to write off any problems caused by loss of kidney to complications from surgery.
  • Iron Fist (2017): It's not outright organ theft, but a subtle hint that Joy Meachum is actually not quite as straight arrow as she seems is when her idea of convincing a businessman to sell a pier to Rand Enterprises is to bribe him by showing him a dying kid whose liver will be transplanted to the businessman's nephew and completely bypass the national donor list.
  • Jake and the Fatman: In "Come Along with Me", Neely teams up with Jake to probe a series of murders connected to an organ-theft plot on behalf of a rich man who needs a new liver.
  • Jessica Jones (2015): When Kilgrave got badly injured in a car accident on the night Jessica broke free of his control over her, he was left with crush syndrome where one of his kidneys was badly damaged. He wanted to be made whole again, so he made the ambulance driver give up his kidneys and ordered the transplant surgeon at the hospital to falsify a death certificate and give Kilgrave the new kidneys. The original donor had a stroke and is now confined to his home where he's hooked up to a dialysis machine (and writes out "KILL ME" when Jessica stops by to interview him), while Jessica learns from the transplant surgeon that Kilgrave will have to harvest a new set of kidneys in a couple of years.
  • In Justified a group of criminals sell organs on the black market. However, they primarily harvest the organs from the recent corpses of people who died in prison rather than then by stealing them from living people. They have access to the prisoners' medical records and use people trained in this type of operation. The one time they operate on a live person, it is a ruse to make the victim think that they took his kidneys so he will steal for them. All they did was make a couple cuts and sutured them up.
  • An episode of Las Vegas had a guest at the Montecito claim this had happened to him. He had a fresh scar and X-rays revealed he was short one kidney. It turns out that he'd already sold the kidney in an under-the-table deal with an ailing celebrity, and was trying to extort money from the casino for additional profit.
  • Played straight in Law & Order, which may actually have helped disseminate the "kidney theft" urban legend (Snopes speculates that the plot, which Word of God claims a friend saw in a newspaper, was based on a false allegation published in the Daily Telegraph in 1989). SVU's Captain Cragen (who appeared in the episode) later dismissed such stories as urban legends.
    • A more realistic variant shows up in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, where a pediatric surgeon is revealed to illegally harvest organs from her braindead patients without their parents' consent. It's done in a hospital setting with all the proper staffing and equipment; the only thing missing is a signature on a form.
  • Leverage features a bizarre version in that a heart is stolen in transit for a rich businessman who is dying. As it was stolen from its intended recipient, a 15-year-old kid, Nate commits everything to stealing it back.
  • The Magician: In "The Illusion of the Deadly Conglomerate", Tony initially believes believes the homeless men being abducted are being used as involuntary organ donors for illegal transplants. They are actually to abduct to provide corpse to an organisation that specialises in helping rich criminals to fake their deaths.
  • The Crapsack World of Max Headroom has "body banks" which will pay for organs — or whole bodies — with no questions asked.
  • Nip/Tuck has an entire story arc dedicate to an organ thieves, beginning in "Shari Noble" where Liz falls for a The Schlub Pub Seduction Deduction when going to a lesbian bar and getting the attention of what she considers a "10" and tragically, the Head-Turning Beauty woman turns out to be a Honey Trap who only brings Liz to her home in order to steal her kidney.
  • Happens in the NUMB3RS episode "Harvest". Four Indian girls come into the US each intending to sell a kidney willingly on the black market to get money for their families. But when one of the girls dies from a surgical error, the doctor running the organ ring figures he's already crossed the Moral Event Horizon and decides to kill the two he has left (one of the surviving girls ran and hid inside another part of the hotel basement when the first surgery got botched and was taken into FBI protective custody) in order to harvest all their organs for the money and to get rid of any potential witnesses. One of the girls is killed, but fortunately, the FBI interrupts just before the procedure on the second girl begins, and she is rescued unharmed.
  • Red Dwarf features an episode where Lister and the Cat are captured and restrained by an apparently rogue medi-droid. After being rescued, Lister wakes up in medbay and is told by Kryten that his kidneys have been stolen. He ultimately ends up going back in time to steal his kidneys from his past self, which is why they had gone missing in the first place.
  • Riverdale: In Season 3, it is eventually revealed that Edgar Evernever runs a cult where he eventually harvests his followers organs to sell on the black market.
  • The RoboCop: The Series episode "What Money Can't Buy" deals with this as Murphy goes against a black market organ ring when two people steal a pair of lungs meant to save a boy Murphy helped rescue in the prior episode ("Officer Down") after his body started to reject the lungs he was given in an earlier operation. The duo and their boss stole the lungs for a crime boss, and the boy's earlier lungs came from the same criminal ring and were taken from someone who died from tuberculosis.
  • One episode of The Rockford Files featured an insane doctor who arranged "accidental" deaths in order to obtain and sell the victims' organs for his wealthy clients. He tended to target victims with rare blood types.
  • Scrubs had one of JD's daydreams parodying the kidney theft legend.
  • What appears to be a people smuggling operation turns out to be this idea in Sea Patrol. The Big Bad of the episode wastes the only kidney aboard which matches a current order in the process of capturing two of the crew. One of them is the right blood type...
  • Gerry Anderson's Space Precinct had criminals engaged in organlegging.
  • In Squid Game, Loser Protagonist Gi-hun was strongarmed by his Loan Shark into signing away his physical rights, with the threat of losing a kidney and eye should he miss another payment. After he joins the Deadly Game in the hopes of using the prize money to repay his debts, it's revealed that a group of the guards overseeing them was secretly harvesting the organs of dead players and selling them to the Chinese for extra money on the side, with the help of a player who was a former doctor.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series has an example, in the infamous episode "Spock's Brain", with the autonomic brain functions that regulate breathing and blood circulation being used to circulate air, heat and water through an Underground City.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: The Vidiians as a Species of Hats. Only that this is not so much organ theft as organ hijacking: they literally take away an organ from a person by teleporting it. When this happens to Neelix in "Phage", the Doctor gives him Hard Light lungs until they can be replaced. In this case, the fact it's a cross-species theft raises serious Fridge Logic issues, as there's no reason why medicine that's advanced enough to perform xenografts couldn't turn to non-sentient animals as donors instead. In a conversation between Janeway and Chakotay on the subject, it turns out the Urban Legend version is still making the rounds even in the 24th Century.
  • Star Trek: Picard has this as a plot point in "Stardust City Rag", in which it is revealed that former Borg drones are targeted so that their Borg components can be harvested and sold on the black market. Icheb, one of the children rescued from the Borg by Voyager, was abducted and killed by such a group.
  • White Collar had a multimillion dollar corporation involved in a conspiracy to sell body parts purchased in foreign countries to needy transplant patients, circumventing the organ transplant system and pocketing the "donations" from the grateful patients. Neal and Peter take them down, of course, when they try to sell to June's young granddaughter.
  • Space: 1999: In "Mission of the Darians", a Generation Ship suffered a radiation overload, and only fourteen crewmembers survived uncontaminated while the others eventually formed a primitive society that forgot its origins. The fourteen extend their lifespans via this trope, believing it's Necessarily Evil to get their spacecraft and its genetic bank to a new planet where their race can start anew. They use God Guise to convince the primitive outside to hand over human sacrifices that get used for their organ bank.
  • A post-mortem version occurs in Syndrome E (an adaptation of the novel by Franck Thilliez & Anbara Salam) with someone stealing the brains of several murder victims. Turns out the victims were part of a Mad Science experiment and the brains are needed for study on its effects.
  • The X-Files: Aside from several organ-eating monsters, which variously stalk victims for their livers, body fat, brains, pituitary glands, and even cancer tumors, the episode "Hell Money" features a Tong-controlled Organ Gambling Ring in which destitute Chinese laborers bet their body parts for the chance at a monetary prize. The operation is disrupted — at least, for that particular city — when the canister of tokens is tipped over, revealing that the game is rigged and all the tokens mark the contestant for death by heart extraction.

  • According to the old Gorillaz website, Murdoc had most of his internal organs surgically exchanged with 2D's.
  • The second part of the That Handsome Devil song "Viva Discordia" has the 'stolen kidney' variation happening to a woman named Mona.

    Mythology and Folklore 
  • In the Andes region, there's the story of the Pishtaco, a cadaverous humanoid who murders people to steal their body fat and organs. What it does with the fat depends on the story; in some versions it eats the fat, while in others it sells the fat to corporations to use as machine lubricant. While the fat-stealing aspects are old, the idea about the Pishtaco stealing organs and working with corporations is new; folklorists attribute this to locals's beliefs that factories from the USA and other developed countries are exploiting them. This myth is more dangerous than it sounds; visitors to the regions have actually gotten killed because the locals thought they were one of them.
  • According to a Cherokee legend, the shapeshifting cannibal ogress known as U'tlun'ta (or "Spearfinger") used her knife-like right forefinger to extract the livers out of her prey; her victims didn't notice until they rapidly sickened and died a few days later.
  • The kappa, a creature from Japanese mythology, were known not only for drowning people or animals that came across ponds where they were lurking, but because they were known to rip people's shirikodama out in a very unpleasant way.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Disturbingly, organ thieves appear in two Dilbert stories:
    • In comic, Dilbert's mom got her organs harvested by a store after she returned too many items.
      "The company is not planning to steal your organs while you sleep at your desks and sell them on the black market... not at the prices we were quoted."
    • In one arc, Dilbert unwisely signs a contract that gives a company the right to harvest his organs. The company lawyer advises him to get a sworn affidavit from attractive female coworkers to prove he has cooties. (Much to his regret, he gets enough signatures rather quickly).

    Tabletop Games 
  • Cyberpunk 2020 has rules for selling organs, limbs included, to the Organ Banks. Officially you need the deceased donor card in order to donate the organs and get the reward, but in practice the paperwork can be easily faked and there's a thriving black market of spare parts, whose clients include corporates. There is also mention of a Organ lottery that runs in Night City.
    • It is stated in Cyberpunk RED that such activity has ceased to be profitable, as advances in cloning technology has allowed lost or damaged body parts to be regrown easily. That said harvesting of cybernetic parts is another thing.
  • GURPS: Bio-Tech has a template for a freelance organlegger. The Evisceration spell from Magic is made for this exact purpose.
  • Rifts. While natural organs are generally not bandied about, it is mentioned that cyber-snatchers are a problem in crime-ridden areas, murdering people for their expensive cybernetic implants.
  • Shadowrun. Tamanous is a criminal syndicate that deals in organlegging. They kidnap and murder the homeless and will pay for recently-dead bodies, and among other things are known for stripping dead bodies of their cyberware to sell on the black market. Street doctors have been known to engage in Organ Theft as well, including patients who can't pay their medical bills. Tamanous even has a way to get rid of the leftovers once all the saleable parts are gone — they sell them to ghouls.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Ork rippadoks from the universe tend to do this to their patients as a form of 'payment' for their services. Orks, however, don't usually miss the stolen organs (being Orks), nor is comparability usually an issue (they can accept whole "donated" heads, for instance).
    • Chaos Space Marines frequently raid their loyalist counterparts for gene-seed, as their own have been mutated beyond recovery by the Warp. How this is done tends to differ depending on the writer; either the Chaos Marines harvest the corpses of everyone on the battlefield, or they will make a raid on one of the genetic labs found on a Chapter Homeworld or a Forge World tasked with storage of gene-seed tithes.

    Video Games 
  • Crypt of the NecroDancer opens with the villain stealing Cadence's heart after she takes a fatal tumble. He then resurrects her, and she sets out to learn what happened and find some way of breaking the curse.
  • Cyberpunk 2077 features the Scavengers, a gang that specializes in kidnapping people and harvesting their organs, both biological and cybernetic, for sale on the black market. Victims of this are often never found, because Scavs will strip everything that can be sold off from them before dumping, burning, or leaving what's left for the rats in Night City's sewers. They are the one gang in Night City that everyone despises and no-one in the game has a kind word to say about them; even V, who's mostly a live-and-let-live sort, hates Scavs with a passion, especially since it's revealed that they also make and distribute XBDs (basically this universe's version of the Snuff Film), something only one other gang (the Tyger Claws that answer to Jotaro Shobo) deals in.
  • In Dead Rising 3, the Psychopath Albert Contiello is a greedy Mad Doctor who sees the Zombie Apocalypse as an opportunity to abduct survivors and harvest their organs for the Black Market. To make it even more horrific, he just straps them down and extracts the organs without using anesthetic, though he does sometimes inject them with hallucinogens, more for his own twisted amusement than to ease their pain.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution: The Harvester gang in Hengsha operate very similarly to this and have the same terrifying reputation. Just swap "augmented parts" for "internal organs".
  • Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth: One case involves a criminal organization of humans and Digimon selling "ultra-realistic dolls" that serve the customers, but the customers have to agree that they mustn't leave their room ever. It turns out that while the customers' minds are actually in EDEN, the criminals kidnap their real bodies and steal their organs to sell them. While the customers live their lives unknowingly in the virtual world, they can't return to their original bodies. The organizations earn their profit not only from selling organs, but also with their dolls.
  • Fallout:
    • A weird example from the Fallout 3 expansion Point Lookout: after (unknowingly and involuntarily) undergoing trepanning, your character wakes up with a chunk of brain missing. This wasn't sold on a black market or anything, but put in a jar and kept as some sort of souvenir by your surgeon. You can actually recover your bottled Lump of Brain, though looking at the item fills you with "a terrible sense of loss."
    • The Fallout: New Vegas expansion Old World Blues goes even farther, with the Think Tank removing your entire brain, along with your spinal column and heart and replacing them with cybernetic components. It's up to the player whether to put your original organs back or keep the robotics (both options offer their own stat buffs).
  • In Grand Theft Auto IV, in order to get rid of the bodies of two people Elizabeta shot to death, Niko takes them to a back alley doctor who harvests organs. The doctor complains that she shot one of them in the eye, because he would've liked to have taken it.
  • Headhunter is set in a world where the organ market is very profitable. Weapons are designed so they don't damage the target's precious organs. There was a massive black market of organs. The player gets to explore the cargo-ship which is the centre of the operation.
  • Killer7 has organ theft as part of its fourth chapter's plot (Encounter). Made even creepier because the organs are taken from immigrant children and children abducted from a creepy theme park. Plus the things Curtis Blackburn did with the bodies of the girls he killed.
  • In a Bad Moon run of Kingdom of Loathing, you can get your kidney stolen by a unicorn, and you can buy it back from the Black Market.
  • The Lost Experience has a side-plot involving sold organs. It doesn't have much to do with anything other than adding to the general corruptness of the Hanso Foundation and providing Product Placement for Jeep. It also ties into Locke's backstory in Lost: his father, who he'd never known, found him and struck up a relationship for the sole purpose of getting him to donate a kidney, then tossed him out again.
  • An assignment in Mass Effect requires the player to bring to justice (or just kill) a Back-Alley Doctor who manages a business of this sort... with a horrible, horrible twist: he pays homeless people to grow extra cloned organs inside their own bodies, with nightmarish medical implications. He then harvests the extra organs... if they grow properly. Otherwise, he just leaves them to die a terrible and painful death with two stomachs.
  • In Max Payne 3, it turns out that the Cracha Preto and the UFE are working together to abduct the poor of Sao Paulo in order to murder them and harvest their organs for the black market. The revelation enrages Max to a degree that not even the murder of his family could match, and his rampage escalates rapidly.
  • In Policenauts, you eventually stumble upon a secret facility where hundreds of people are kept brain-dead, but otherwise still alive, so that their organs can be harvested whenever the organ traffickers need.
  • RimWorld allows player to harvest organs like kidneys or hearts from prisoners and your fellow colonists. Organs can be used for replacing damaged, missing, or unhealthy organs, or making money by selling them.
  • Crops up in The Secret World Halloween mission "The Organ Smugglers." Here, it's revealed that the Orochi Group have been singling out unique individuals for organ harvesting, using their contacts among the CDC to isolate the donors and provide the medical service. Most of the cliches inherent to the urban legend are lampshaded during Marianne Chen's confession, and are only fulfilled on explicit orders from the harvesters — apparently for no other reason than to further the legend. For good measure, Bong Cha warns Dragon players to avoid getting captured by the harvesters after you run into a pack of them, noting that with your abilities, they could harvest you for a virtual eternity. A visit to Orochi headquarters reveals that one unfortunate Bee has already been subjected to this.
  • Sleeping Dogs (2012): One of the Police side missions ends up uncovering an organ harvesting ring preying on members of the Sun On Yee Triad, being run by their rivals, the 18K Triads. Sun On Yee foot soldiers are kidnapped off the streets and delivered to a surgeon on 18K's payroll, who harvests their organs and transplants them into 18K's paying customers, while the abducted gangster's corpse is dumped into the harbour. The 18K make a tidy profit while literally killing off their competition in the process, and since the victims are exclusively triad footsoldiers, the cops' apathy over the deaths of a few gangsters and thugs ensures the operation stays under the radar.
  • The Medic from Team Fortress 2 apparently lost his medical license after stealing a patient's skeleton. He also seem to deal in non-human organs as well, as we can only imagine what a "Mega Baboon" is supposed to be.
  • In The Thrill Of Combat this is what you do for a living. Using a helicopter, stun beam and a rappelling surgeon to get the sweet, sweet organs and points.

    Web Animation 

  • Lynn Tailor nearly lost her eggs (and more than likely her ovaries as well) due to a faulty Auto Doc in Data Chasers. A REAL doctor showed up and turned it off.
  • Right after The Big Damn Kiss of Nick and Ki in General Protection Fault when they reach Ki's apartment, their friend and colleague Fooker calls her to explain he is in Mexico right now and ... would she know someone with a kidney to spare?
  • In He Is a Good Boy, Crange (who is an acorn, and came from a tree that also had organs) dreams that he's taking a hot bath, but is woken up by remembering the tree he came from being murdered, and finds himself in a tub full of ice, with a hole in his torso and all of his organs gone. Before he sees the hole, he finds a note taped to his stalk that reads "Sorry we got a little carried away XOXO". Surprisingly, he finds that his organs weren't stolen by the Mad Doctor/Artist spider that had been using organs as a medium.
  • Gets played with in the Space plotline of Irregular Webcomic! Some of the crew get mugged and their organs stolen. So what do they do? Take the organs from their future selves who failed at going back in time and preventing their organs from being removed, and then later find their original organs and get those implanted inside themselves so that when their future selves get their organs removed, they'll have a spare set.
  • In this Kevin & Kell strip, a rhino wakes up in a bath of ice with his horn missing.
  • In Something*Positive, Pepito did this to a guy to get the money for English lessons.
  • In Super Stupor, Claw-Frog doesn't bother with keeping his target alive. Then again, he's not selling it for transplant either...
  • Super Effective: Red blacks out after all his Pokémon are KO'd, and wakes up in ice with a pair of scars.
  • Inverted in this xkcd, where a guy's ice is stolen and he wakes up in a bath full of KIDNEYS.

    Web Originals 
  • Drop-Out: In the "Urban Legend ER" video, a doctor is about to perform an organ transplant when a woman bursts into the ER claiming that the kidneys are actually hers and that she woke up in a bathtub full of ice that morning with two huge scars on her back. After she faints, the doctor tells the nurse to give the woman her kidneys back.
  • The Onion: Anonymous Philanthropist Donates 200 Human Kidneys To Hospital. Hospital staff are very happy at the great diversity of the kidneys (which were thrown all together in a big sack through the hospital doors), and are very hopeful to get more since the message attached was "This Is Only The Beginning".
  • Oxventure:
    • At one point, they're drugged unconscious and wake up in cells that drain their magic. Most of them are otherwise fine, but Egbert, a dragonborn, wakes up in a tub of ice missing one kidney. Notably, since most D&D settings aren't really places where black market organ trafficking works with any kind of effectiveness, since magical healing exists and is probably more effective, it's established that only Egbert's kidney was taken because dragonborn are rare and mystically significant and as such their internal organs are valuable in and of themselves; on top of that, "Rolling in the Deep" reveals the organ was stolen to create a Clone Army. (Upon learning this, Corazon began wondering why they hadn't been stealing organs from Egbert all along).
    • More worryingly, Liliana has a tendency to order this for any subordinates that fail her.
  • Discussed for Laughs in Technoblade's only TikTok video (also reuploaded onto YouTube), where he assumes that someone allegedly impersonating him on the site is trying to trick his viewer-base and steal their organs, which he claims "just isn't right".
    Techno: I think we can all agree that people deserve to get their organs stolen by the real Technoblade.

    Western Animation 
  • Subverted in American Dad!, Roger was planning to do this to Steve so he could sell the kidney for 50 million dollars to buy Dolly Land, but Steve woke up before he could and pointed out that Roger wouldn't get that much for a kidney. Roger gave up on the idea then.
    • Roger once had an operating room in his attic that looked like he was going to use it to harvest Hayley and Jeff's organs; it was actually to remove his own, but he couldn't sell them because there wasn't a market for alien organs. When he collapses without them, his organs (which are autonomous) reinsert themselves anally.
    • In the episode "The Old Country," Steve and Stan submit their DNA to an ancestry website. However, it's actually a scam meant to find compatible organs for billionaire donors. The two are then drugged and have their organs harvested, but a group of Canadians selflessly offer their own to them.
  • In one episode of Drawn Together, Wooldoor does this to Toot.
  • This is one of the Urban Legends used in Freaky Stories, although it's moved into the future in an attempt to slightly reduce the Squick factor. In this version, the guy's entire body is stolen, leaving him a disembodied head connected to a portable life support unit.
  • Family Guy:
    • In "Valentine's Day in Quahog", Meg's date turns out to be a black-market dealer who takes her kidney. After spending the day together, he gives the kidney back to her in a jar, which she keeps on her shelf as a memento.
    • In "Old World Harm", Joe lets Peter and Lois spend their vacation at his mom's condo in Florida, which turns out to be in a retirement community where the seniors harvest young peoples' organs. After the two escape and comment how Joe was in the dark about all this, it's revealed the whole thing was a scheme to replace his crippled legs with theirs; he decides to settle for Cleveland's black legs instead.
  • Futurama:
    • Spoofed in "My Three Suns". A sleazy street vendor offers Fry some (supposedly) ill-gotten organs and almost operates on him ("I take lungs now. Gills come next week.") before Leela stops him.
    • In "Anthology of Interest II", when Leela comes to after the Professor knocks her out pulling a lever on the What If machine, it's revealed that he planned to harvest her organs while she was out cold, but she woke up before he could, much to his disappointment. Hermes insists that he can try again next year.
    • Spoofed again in "Spanish Fry" Fry loses his nose to alien poachers because "human horn" is considered an aphrodisiac. He gets it back, only for Bender to tell the aliens that, logically, they should want his "lower horn."
    • Richard Nixon threatened to sell children's organs to zoos once.
    • In "Murder on the Planet Express", Fry suspected Bender of using his toothbrush to polish his ass so he put up a camera in their apartment. Instead he caught Bender and a team of surgeons harvesting his kidney while he slept. Then Leela accidentally ate Fry's kidney after Bender stashed it in Hermes' lunch cooler, and the Professor got a manwich in place of a kidney transplant.
  • Invader Zim has an entire episode about this, entitled "Dark Harvest". In the episode, Zim is afraid of being revealed as an alien by medical science, and decides that the solution to this issue is to pack his torso with human organs from the children at the school and replace the stolen parts with random nearby objects. Oddly, this generally only seems to cause discomfort and severe fatigue, but it leaves Zim a grotesquely obese sack of organs. In the end, this plan somehow works.
  • Justice League: After Superman was brainwashed by Darkseid, Dr. Hamilton was scared enough that he stole Supergirl's DNA, went to CADMUS, and cloned Galatea (a Supergirl clone who was loyal to CADMUS alone). When the Supercousins learn the truth, they're a little upset.
  • The Loud House: In "Garage Banned", Lisa tries to take Lincoln's kidney for an experiment.
    Lincoln: Lori, tell Lisa she can't have my kidneys!
    Lisa: Tell Lincoln he only needs one!
    Lori: Lisa, you already took out his appendix. Don't be greedy.
  • Men in Black: The Series:
    • The first episode dealing with Alpha involved him stealing a Sintillian heart. The victim didn't die as his species has two hearts and can live just fine with one, leading J to think that there's no problem. K quickly corrects him:
    K: You have ten toes. You wake up one morning with one missing, how would you feel?
    • Organ Theft is basically Alpha's hat. In his first appearances he had multiple alien body parts grafted to his body using Applied Phlebotinum. Notably the alien parts included heads which were still fully conscious, if under Alpha's control. He lost those in a Shapeshifter Swan Song, then reappeared with a completely new set that coincided with an animation change. By the time the series ended Alpha didn't even resemble anything human, although by then he'd moved on to robot parts.
  • A Robot Chicken sketch involved a woman falling victim to this, and waking up just as the thief was leaving. She just laughs and points to the mirror, where she wrote "Welcome to the AIDS club!" They both have a chuckle over it.note 
    "Good luck selling that organ!"
    • Another sketch has a Troll doll steal the belly-button gem from a Treasure Troll in this fashion.
  • One episode of Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century had an organ trafficking ring that turned out to be cloning their products. Despite not being stolen, making these organs is still illegal due to Clone Degeneration.
  • The Simpsons: In "Homer Simpson in: Kidney Trouble", Grampa's kidneys burst when Homer refuses to stop and let him use the bathroom, so Homer decides to give Grampa one of his kidneys. However, upon finding out from Moe that people with one kidney can't drink beer as well as people with two kidneys, Homer is reluctant to give his kidney to Grampa. Near the end of the episode, the operation is about to go underway, but Homer escapes before it can happen. However, he gets hit by a car that falls on top of him from Hans Moleman's car carrier trailer, and since he wasn't going to give up the kidney willingly, Dr. Hibbert took it from him and gave it to Grampa while nursing Homer back to his normal self.
  • In the South Park episode "Cherokee Hair Tampons", Kyle became sick and needed a kidney, but the only person with his bloodtype was Cartman, who naturally refused to give up one of his. Stan and Kenny break into his house one night to try to steal the kidney, only to find Cartman had anticipated this and donned a 'Kidney Blocker 2000.' They later tricked Cartman into thinking that they had somehow bypassed the thing and took a kidney from him, and when he demanded that it be put back and willingly entered the operating room, the doctors removed a kidney for real and gave it to Kyle.
  • Transformers: Animated: Organ Theft among Mechanical Lifeforms is pretty common. How else can you explain Lockdown? He's in it for the upgrades, and seems especially fond of parts that come from another Transformer's body. The Autobots regard this practice like one would regard organ harvesting in real life, with Ratchet treating the whole thing with anger and disgust.
    Lockdown: "But don't worry... I got everything I wanted from you long ago."
  • Transformers: Prime:
  • The Venture Bros. used the kidney theft variant in the episode "Dia De Los Dangerous." Better justified than many examples, since we know it was being done by a relatively poor doctor who Dr. Venture was going out of his way to be an ass toward. Yes, even more than usual.
    Dr. Venture: Oh, for the love of — not again! ... wait a minute. One... Two. This is serious.

    Real Life 
  • Largely averted in reality, as the logic-test at the top of the page would attest on its own. But also stealing organs from unwilling sources is a great way to infect your intended recipients with HIV, hepatitis, or other ailments. Illegal and/or for-profit kidney sales do happen in reality, but generally with the donors' willing participation (see Dirty Pretty Things, above).
  • The urban legend also fails on two facts that would make this implausible at best. First off, the stolen organ has to match sizes and be compatible to the donor, something you can't control with a randomly picked victim. Second, the large loss of blood from removing a kidney would make death of the victim a much more likely outcome. Another problem with this legend, though less a medical than a practical one, is that it would be much simpler to outright kill the victim and remove all their organs. They would then be unable to bear witness to the police, especially if their now much lighter body was disposed of permanently... And how do you even get enough ice cubes into a hotel room to fill a bathtub without drawing attention to yourself? Furthermore, the typical kidney theft urban legend is highly unlikely because motel rooms (or wherever the theft takes place) lack the sterility to conduct surgery. Although that doesn't necessarily make much difference, as any back-alley "plastic surgeon" worth the title can tell you.
  • There has been documented kidney theft among various poor people in India, who were then paid afterwards with "hush money" or threatened with death (Indian Victims Relate Horror of Kidney Theft -- ABC News).
  • Chinese government:
    • They are believed to harvest organs from prisoners executed in the colorfully named "death vans" that provide capital punishment services to outlying regions.
    • The Chinese government also executes Falun Gong prisoners (who are detained without trial) whenever wealthy foreign tourists place a demand for an organ transplant.
    • All this could never be factually proven by anybody, although some time ago the government issued a statement that "they didn't perform that practice anymore."
    • As of late 2019, these allegations are back in the news, this time regarding the Chinese government's mass imprisonment of Uyghur Muslims.
    • The allegations were investigated and proven true in a 2019 Tribunal (link provided here).
  • In South Korea, loan sharks are known to strongarm debt defaulters into selling their organs to make up for missed payments.
  • There are urban legends regarding this trope, doctors, and malpractice. While these are generally true, there have been some cases of supposedly brain dead patients waking up right before their organs were to be removed.
    • In one variant, if a registered organ donor's life is ever in jeopardy, then they will be murdered by doctors through substandard medical treatment, except doctors in the United States don't check donor status until an individual has been declared dead. Furthermore, the doctors treating the living and the transplant teams work independently from one another. And where are all the medical malpractice lawsuits alleging this urban legend? If it were true, then litigation lawyers would have fortunes to make.
      The usual variant goes thus: "If you have to go the ER, the doctors will not try as hard to save you if you are a donor. They don't consciously choose to do it, they just do." Aside from being an insult to doctors, it always fails to explain just how would the doctors treating you know that you are a donor. (And if you say, "By your driver's license or ID, of course!" — remember, they don't actually see that).
    • This is also said of doctors treating patients in persistent vegetative states, which is probably similarly untrue; there have been cases where doctors have put pressure on relatives of someone in that condition to discontinue treatment, occasionally to the point of asking for a court order, but that's only done when the patient's chances of recovery are nonexistent and they are to all intents and purposes dead. This stems from the fact that those in permanent vegetative states make very practical organ donors, as the organs can be harvested in a very controlled setting rather than relying on the chance of an otherwise healthy organ donor dying. While no ethical doctor would pressure a family to end the life of a loved one simply for the organs, no ethical doctor would let someone in such a state die without bringing up organ donation, given that literally dozens of lives may depend on it. In fact, vacillating relatives uncomfortable with the notion of withdrawing a brain-dead loved one's life support are often the ones who ask doctors about this option, feeling that organ donation will let the patient's passing be a worthwhile one, and/or that permitting organ recovery will help the survivors come to terms with the necessity of terminating support.
  • There is a story of an American missionary who went down to Nicaragua once, only to be confronted with rumors of him trying to kill children and harvest their organs. Locals responded by beating him into a persistent vegetative state. Similar stories exist of aid workers, tourists, and military personnel being attacked for the same reason. Verifying their authenticity is difficult.
  • The Israeli military was accused of killing Palestinian prisoners for their organs. Regardless of the accusation's validity, the Israeli military did admit to taking corneas, arteries and other tissue from dead Palestinians. This is not the same as executing prisoners for their organs, and the practice was discontinued over ten years previous. Dead Israelis were also "harvested."
    • Israel has a chronic problem with a shortage of organs, as for whatever reason Israelis have a surprisingly low rate of organ donation (8% of Israelis are registered donors, while in most Western countries the level's closer to 35%). It's not entirely clear why. Unfortunately, people who don't like Israel or Jewish people have played this up when given the chance, and still more unfortunately, a small number of Jewish people have given them ammunition by engaging in organ trafficking (which is to say, taking legitimately donated organs and then selling them rather than providing them free of charge) to Israel. The most famous incident is probably the 2009 bust of a ring in New Jersey which included five rabbis, three mayors, the Deputy Mayor of Jersey City, and two NJ State Assemblymen. Naturally, when this ring was exposed, many portrayed it as stealing kidneys, when in fact what they did, while reprehensible and illegal, was not nearly as bad as that.note 
  • There have been allegations of the Kosovo Liberation Army murdering prisoners, and murders occurring along the US-Mexico border, for the purpose of organ theft. However, there has been no evidence to support either allegation.
    • However, in case of the organ trafficking in Kosovo, the Dick Marty report has been endorsed by the Council of Europe and the EULEX and there's a lot of evidence to back it up. It should also be noted that Albanian authorities have denied any cooperation.
  • In some countries, organ-harvesting is practiced under a policy of presumed consent, meaning that a deceased person's recoverable organs will be salvaged unless their survivors object and/or there's documentation saying that they didn't want it done. It's not "theft" because it's perfectly legal, but it can look like this to people from countries where lack of consent is the default assumption.
  • Not strictly an organ, but back before they could synthesise erythropoietin, East Germany would allegedly kill people to harvest their natural EPO and feed it to athletes, thus stimulating their bone marrow to produce extra red cells and enhance performance. This is probably just another urban legend, as you could get exactly the same performance advantage by blood-doping with ordinary donor blood and/or by sending your athletes for a few months of high-altitude training. Plus, erythropoietin from most other mammals is identical to that of humans, so they could get it more cheaply from sheep.

Please take a moment to fill out your organ donor cards.

Alternative Title(s): Organlegging


"Gullible" on the ceiling

"Oh, so it d--ah! You stole my lungs."

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / OrganTheft

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