Governments must crack down on organ trafficking: expert

File: The Organ Donor Foundation says it takes about two minutes to register as a donor.

File: The Organ Donor Foundation says it takes about two minutes to register as a donor.

Wikimedia Commons

VATICAN CITY - Governments around the world need to do more to stop thousands of organs being trafficked every year, including strengthening legislation and improving regulation of hospitals, an advisor to the World Health Organization said on Friday.

Only a handful of countries including the United States, Spain and Sweden have dedicated laws on organ donation, according to Francis Delmonico, who is also a professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School.

"In the transplantation sphere, governments should be monitoring who are the donors, who can be the recipients," Delmonico told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at a conference organised by the Global Sustainability Network (GSN).

"At the moment, this transparency doesn&39;t exist."

Organ transplants save thousands of lives every year, but experts say demand far outstrips supply, creating illicit markets and "transplant tourists" who travel to countries to have operations they cannot get at home.

Since 2000, organ trafficking has spread from mainly South and Southeast Asian countries to Latin America, North Africa and other regions afflicted by poverty and political instability, according to a 2015 document for the European Parliament.

It said a World Health Organization (WHO) 2007 estimate found around 5-10 percent of all kidney and liver transplants performed globally are conducted with illicitly obtained organs

Delmonico said the illicit nature of the trade made it difficult to measure its impact, but that global inequality made the poor "ripe for exploitation".

"It&39;s a social injustice issue," he said. "Who are getting (organs)? People who are rich! Who is providing this? People who are poor and dying."

In 2016, Pope Francis called organ trafficking one of the "new forms of slavery" and a crime against humanity.

Delmonico also called on the US State Department to include the illicit practice in its annual Trafficking in Human Persons Report, which ranks countries on their anti-trafficking efforts.

"Please don&39;t exclude organ trafficking. They should see it, just as the Pope said, as a human slavery problem," he said.