Experts meet in Vienna to address the trafficking of persons for the removal of organs

28 to 30 June 2010,

Vienna, Austria

From 28-30 June 2010, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) hosted an expert group meeting (EGM) to address trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal. The key purpose of the meeting was to develop materials to assess this form of trafficking. The EGM saw the participation of experienced experts from different regions of the world, of various professional backgrounds including; medical health care, criminal justice, law enforcement and academia.

The EGM gathered expert input on the crimes pertaining to this particular form of trafficking, the actors involved, the modus operandi of traffickers, the existing legal frameworks of Member States, case studies and appropriate measures to respond and prevent these crimes.

The meeting was made possible by funding received from the government of France.


Trafficking in persons for the purpose of removal of organs is a form of human trafficking in which an individual is exploited for bodily organs. The most common organs sought for in the 'organ market' are kidneys, followed by livers for purposes of transplantation. Such practices have increased exponentially in recent decades with the growing demand for live-donor organ transplants. This demand is attributable to an increasing differential between rates of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and deceased donor organ donation.

This form of trafficking in persons follows patterns similar to other forms of human trafficking (e.g. exploitation of vulnerable populations), but intrinsically contains significant differences. Some of the actors and modus operandi of this crime stand in sharp contrast to other forms of trafficking in persons, e.g. the requirement of medical professionals, the matching of an organ recipient, the duration of exploitation and the subsequent release of the victim. Knowledge of these practices is not well known and, resultantly, the response globally has been, at best, uneven.

Relevant Facts

[1] Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2007;85:955-962

[2] Based on activity data analysed from 2008 for 104 countries, representing nearly 90% of the worldwide population. /transplantation/gkt/statistics/en/index.html.


[4] WHO Consultation on the Ethics, Access and Safety in Tissue and Organ Transplantation: Issues of Global Concern (2003 :Madrid, Spain)

[5] Based on activity data analysed from 2008 for 104 countries, representing nearly 90% of the worldwide population. /transplantation/gkt/statistics/en/index.html.

[6] WHO proposes global agenda on transplantation: pr12/en/index.html.

[7] WHO bulletin, Volume 82, Number 9, September 2004, 639-718

[8] World Health Assembly resolution WHA 57.18

[9] World Health Assembly resolution WHA 63.22

[10] The Lancet, Volume 372, Issue 9632, Pages 5 - 6, 5 July 2008

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