Tackling the International Trafficking of Organs, Tissues and Cells

Posted by Jesse Reynolds on November 24th, 2009

Concerns about international trafficking of human organs, tissues and cells have given rise to the Declaration of Istanbul and a joint report by the United Nations and the Council of Europe.

In 2008, more than 150 people - bioethicists and representatives of governments and of scientific and medical organizations - gathered in Istanbul to refine and issue a statement on organ trafficking. The Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism [PDF] offers principles and proposals for actions by governments, doctors, and others in order to increase the supply of organs for transplant while protecting both the organ providers and recipients.

Earlier this year, the United Nations and Council of Europe issued a rare joint report [PDF] on the same topic. Its purview is somewhat larger: It includes trafficking in organs, tissues, and cells, and the trafficking of humans in order to remove these materials. One of its six main recommendations is "The principle of the prohibition of making financial gains with the human body or its parts should be the paramount consideration in relation to organ transplantation. All national legislation concerning organ transplantation should conform to this principle." And it calls for a binding international convention.

All too often, even those who express concern about these issues throw up their hands and acquiesce to their purported inevitability. That makes it all the more encouraging to see the international community move towards binding policy. Furthermore, the addition of tissues and cells to the UN/CoE report indicates that a potential convention could tackle the illicit international trade in human eggs.

Previously on Biopolitical Times:

Posted in Global Governance, Jesse Reynolds's Blog Posts


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