May 20, 2024

More information needed about organ trafficking, says UN report

Report endorses “voluntary altruism”

International regulation is needed to stop trafficking in human organs, tissues and cells, says a report to the United Nations and the Council of Europe. The authors include the well-known American bioethicist Arthur Caplan, and Carmen Prior, Public Prosecutor of Austria.

Human trafficking, though a terrible problem, is already well covered by international conventions, says the report, but organ trafficking is not. Even defining it poses a problem. Is compensation for human eggs trafficking? How about obtaining bodies for popular exhibits of human cadavers?

The report has endorsed a policy of "voluntary altruism" for organ donation. Organs should not be bought and sold for profit. "Legislation on the recovery of organs from living and deceased donors for transplantation should be passed in all countries and should conform to this principle," it says. Caplan told a press conference that in order to reduce the international organ trade countries have to be self-sufficient in their supply of voluntarily donated organs, through well-run procurement systems.

"Money for parts" exploits the poor who often remain poor after selling their body parts. It violates basic human dignity and medical ethics. Caplan also contends that a market system damages the voluntary system’s respectability and makes people less willing to donate.

Other authors commented that a paid donation system cannot be properly regulated. Iran has the world’s only legal organ market, but it has found that it is impossible to regulate prices and keep out brokers.

One conclusion from the report – which is available on the internet on the Council of Europe website – is that there is still very little reliable data on the topic. People are reluctant to report cases of exploitation because of the huge profits and rather low risks for the perpetrators. Consequently, most of the report’s conclusions are based on largely anecdotal media reports. For that reason, it did not point fingers at countries where the situation is particularly bad. ~ Earth Times, Oct 13

Michael Cook