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The price of life: responding to the global back market in illicit organs

Webinar on the Global Organ Market at Babson College

17 June, 2015

DICG Executive Director Dr Francis L. Delmonico and Executive Committee member Dr Rudolf García-Gallont participated in the webinar "The price of life: responding to the global back market in illicit organs", organized by Christina Bain at Babson College and the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime.

DICG member Dr Debra Budiani-Saberi was also a participant.

The Webinar included a series of timely and interesting presentations from a multidisciplinary group of speakers that offered diverse experience in the field. In particular, many new aspects of activities involved in organ trafficking and transplant tourism resulting from increased use of modern communication platforms were brought to attention.


Francis L. Delmonico, M.D., Executive Director, Declaration of Istanbul Custodian Group; World Health Organization Advisory for Human Transplantation; Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital; and Medical Director, New England Organ Bank

Rudolf Garcia-Gallont, M.D., Transplant Programs, Guatemala Public Health System, Declaration of Istanbul Custodian Group Executive Committee

Debra Budiani-Saberi, Ph.D., Founder and Executive Director, Coalition for Organ-Failure Solutions (COFS)

Silke Albert, Crime Prevention Expert, Anti-Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Unit, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

Laura Gómez-Mera, Ph.D.,Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Miami (moderator)

Key points from the webinar include the following:

  • The "classical" scenario of transplant tourism including a broker (usually from a third country), a vendor (usually a person in financial need,  from a poor country) and a buyer (usually a wealthy patient from a developed country) has evolved.  Social media have added the possibility of direct contact between vendors and buyers,  and the payment is mostly done in cash, turning the whole operation into one that is difficult to detect or to track.  They will then travel to a selected country to have the transplant performed.  
  • Dr. Delmonico underlined  the fact that most  illegal transplants in these countries take place in private hospitals, because they are under inadequate surveillance of Health Authorities. The hospitals simply  fail to  report irregular transplant operations (that are otherwise forbidden and penalized in most of the countries by law).
  • Dr.  García-Gallont agreed on this point, and highlighted what DICG has been doing in Central America to approach Private hospitals (in this particular case through the Central American Federation of Private Hospitals at their annual meeting), where they have presented the CEOs and Medical Directors of such hospitals with the information to detect suspicious transplantation activity in their centers, and introduced them to the Declaration and WHO Guiding Principles.  They were encouraged to follow these guidelines and  to publicize their adherence to the guidelines on their websites, etc.  This emphasizes the importance of engaging this specific group of health-service providers in combatting transplant tourism.
  • Dr. García-Gallont also made a presentation on the impact that organ commercialism has on the development of legitimate programs of deceased donation in the affected countries, because of the distrust that it generates in the general population vis a vis donation when transparency is  not guaranteed.  He shared clear examples of this Trust-vs-Distrust effect on the rate of family refusals to deceased donation in specific countries (positive in Colombia after curtailing transplants to foreigners, negative in  Peru, Mexico, and Costa Rica after media revelations of severe irregularities).
  • Dr. Delmonico emphasized the changing pattern in several countries where foreign patients are now being replaced by an "internal market" where privileged economic segments of the local population buy from the underprivileged, or bypass waiting lists by means of payment.
  • Dr Budiani-Saberi described the international panorama of organ trafficking and detailed the XDOT project that marks hotspots of international trafficking activity.

The flyer below provides more information about the webinar.

Babson TraCCC McKenna Webinar Boston 1

Babson TraCCC McKenna Webinar Boston 2

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