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Board addresses international definitions of transplant tourism

Published on: Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Houston -- The OPTN/UNOS Board of Directors, at its meeting today, adopted a series of definitions* differentiating between concepts such as organ trafficking, transplant tourism and travel for transplantation. These definitions stem from a 2008 international conference in Istanbul to seek consensus among transplant professionals regarding transplant tourism and organ trafficking.

"For a number of years, our organization has voiced concern for vulnerable people who may be harmed through transplant tourism," said Robert S.D. Higgins, M.D., president of the OPTN and UNOS and Chair of the OPTN/UNOS Board of Directors. "We support the efforts of transplant professionals working internationally to better understand this issue and advocate for those most at risk from this practice."

The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) is operated under contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Division of Transplantation by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). The OPTN brings together medical professionals, transplant recipients and donor families to develop organ transplantation policy.

*Organ trafficking is the recruitment, transport, transfer, harboring or receipt of living or deceased persons or their organs by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability, or of the giving to, or the receiving by, a third party of payments or benefits to achieve the transfer of control over the potential donor, for the purpose of exploitation by the removal of organs for transplantation.

Transplant commercialism is a policy or practice in which an organ is treated as a commodity, including by being bought or sold or used for material gain. Travel for transplantation is the movement of organs, donors, recipients or transplant professionals across jurisdictional borders for transplantation purposes.

Travel for transplantation becomes transplant tourism if it involves organ trafficking and/or transplant commercialism or if the resources (organs, professionals and transplant centers) devoted to providing transplants to patients from outside a country undermine the country's ability to provide transplant services for its own population.