“The problem is worldwide. No one is untouched.”
This statement from a South Asian correspondent could be referring to many issues. Climate change, disease, terrorism…the list goes on and on. But in this case, he was referencing human trafficking for the harvesting of organs.
It’s easy to forget that human trafficking goes beyond sex and labor trafficking as these are the stories we hear most frequently. However, it is estimated that more than 10,000 transplants each year, or 5-10% of the world’s organ transplants, involve organ trafficking. With more than 105,000 individuals in the United States alone on the waiting list for an organ transplant, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Despite the absence of surprise, the issue is still one that should be discussed. Organ trafficking groups feed off of the desperation of the poor, particularly refugees. In parts of Europe, where refugees are gathering at the borders, fleeing from violence, organ traffickers offer a ticket to enter the country in exchange for an organ, usually a kidney or liver. So far, all efforts to control illegal organ trafficking have been unsuccessful.
Last month, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences called a meeting including government ministers, judges, law enforcement personnel, medical professionals, human rights activists, and journalists. Officials from Mexico, India, Pakistan, and Iran–countries where selling human organs is legal–were invited as well as representatives from China, where harvesting organs from executed prisoners is routine practice. The idea was to give them contacts and pledges of support from other officials in an attempt to change their laws.
This is just the beginning. It is predicted that other alliances will form around this topic among legal experts, governments, U.N. agencies, etc. with the common goal of protecting the poor and the vulnerable.