Organ Trafficking

The transplantation of healthy organs into persons whose own organs have failed, improves and saves thousands of lives every year. But demand for organs has outstripped supply, creating an underground market for illicitly obtained organs.

Desperate situations of both recipients and donors create an avenue ready for exploitation by international organ trafficking syndicates. Traffickers exploit the desperation of donors to improve the economic situation of themselves and their families, and they exploit the desperation of recipients who may have few other options to improve or prolong their lives. Like other victims of trafficking in persons, those who fall prey to traffickers for the purpose of organ removal may be vulnerable by virtue of poverty, for instance. One factor that is distinct in this form of trafficking in persons is the profile of culprits; while some may live solely from criminal trafficking activities, others may be doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and health care professionals who are involved in legitimate activities when they are not participating in trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal.

The transnational organized crime syndicates are involved in trafficking people for the purpose of organ removal and the organs themselves. The Trafficking in Persons Protocol supplementing the Transnational Organized Crime Convention includes trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal.

UNODC response

Trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal was on the agenda of the Working Group on Trafficking in Persons established by the Conference of Parties to the Organized Crime Convention at its fourth session, from 10 to 12 October 2011.

The Working Group recommended that States make better use of the Convention and Trafficking in Persons Protocol in combating trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal.

The Working Group recommended that States parties to the Convention should encourage relevant United Nations entities, including UNODC, to gather evidence-based data on trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal, including root causes, trends and modus operandi, with the aim of facilitating better understanding and awareness of the phenomenon while recognizing the difference between trafficking in organs, tissues and cells.

The Working Group also requested UNODC to develop a training module against trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal, and provide technical assistance, especially in regard to investigation, exchange of information and international legal cooperation.