Press release - 760(2009)

Council of Europe and United Nations joint study calls for international convention to combat organ trafficking

New York, 13.10.2009 – A new international convention is needed to prevent trafficking in organs, tissues and cells (OTC), protect victims and prosecute offenders, recommends a joint study published today by the Council of Europe and the UN. Trafficking in OTC should also be clearly distinguished from trafficking in human beings for the removal of organs.

The study stresses that trafficking in human beings for the purpose of organ removal is a small part of the wider problem of OTC, and highlights widespread confusion in the legal and scientific communities between the two types of trafficking, which require different solutions.

The report points to the possibility of a high number of unreported cases of both crimes, because of low risks and huge profits for perpetrators. Trafficking in OTC often takes the form of what is known as “transplant tourism”, which involves recipients travelling – usually from rich countries -to acquire organs in countries where measures to prevent the crime or protect live donors are not in place or not implemented.

It is estimated that five to ten per cent of kidney transplants performed annually around the world are the result of trafficking.

The study also concludes:
· The prohibition of financial gain with the human body or its parts should be the basis of all legislation on organ transplantation.
· Organ donation should be promoted in order to increase organ availability, with preference given to deceased organ donation.
· There is a need to collect reliable data on trafficking in OTC and trafficking in human beings for organ removal, disaggregated by sex in order to assess if the problem impacts women and men differently.
· The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, and in the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, already contain appropriate measures to combat trafficking in human beings for organ removal.

The authors of the study are Arthur Caplan, Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Director of the Center for Bioethics of the University of Pennsylvania, Carmen Prior, Public Prosecutor of Austria; and Rafael Matesanz and Beatríz Domínguez-Gil, Director and Medical Adviser of the National Transplant Organisation of Spain, respectively.

The study was prepared at the initiative of Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and Rachel N. Mayanja, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women.

Council of Europe press contact in Strasbourg: Jaime Rodriguez, tel.: + 33 (0) 3 90 21 47 04,

Council of Europe Directorate of Communication
Tel: +33 (0)3 88 41 25 60
Fax:+33 (0)3 88 41 39 11