“Organ trafficking is a crime against humanity” was the strong message from a recent summit that addressed the issue at the Vatican
Organ trafficking and exploitation of the vulnerable and poor for organs has been a global issue for over 30 years and very little progress has been made to stop this practise.
Pope Francis, in June 2016, at the Judges’ Summit on Human Trafficking and Organized Crime, stated that organ trafficking and human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal are “true crimes against humanity [that] need to be recognized as such by all religious, political and social leaders, and by national and international legislation,”
In accordance with the Resolutions of the United Nations and the World Health Assembly, the 2015 Vatican Summit of mayors from the major cities of the world, the 2014 joint declaration of faith leaders against modern slavery, and the Magisterium of the summit called for a strong collaborated efforts of all nations to formulate compelling solutions to combat this illegal practice of organ trafficking.
The Pontifical Academy of Sciences collaborated with many international organisations and on the 7-8 February 2017, organised the ‘Summit on Organ Trafficking’ at the Casina Pio IV, the headquarters of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican.
Chancellor Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo chaired the meeting that was conducted by Dr. Francis Delmonico, past president of ‘The Transplantation Society’ and a renowned world leader in the field of transplantation. Seventy five leaders representing over 60 countries were invited to the summit.
The gathered leaders deliberated about the problem of organ trafficking and possible solution for almost two days. The consensus statement was prepared after much discussion and with the approval of the Chancellor of the Academy
The following statement of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences Summit on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism was issued –
We, the undersigned participants of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences Summit on Organ Trafficking, resolve to combat these crimes against humanity through comprehensive efforts that involve all stakeholders around the world.
The following recommendations from the PAS Summit on Organ Trafficking are proposed to national, regional and municipal governments, ministries of health, to the judiciary, to the leaders of the major religions, to professional medical organizations, and to the general public for implementation around the world:
1. That all nations and all cultures recognize human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal and organ trafficking, which include the use of organs from executed prisoners and payments to donors or the next of kin of deceased donors, as crimes that should be condemned worldwide and legally prosecuted at the national and international level.
2. That religious leaders encourage ethical organ donation and condemn human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal and organ trafficking.
3. That nations provide the resources to achieve self-sufficiency in organ donation at a national level—with regional cooperation as appropriate—by reducing the need for transplants through preventive measures and improving access to national transplant programs in an ethical and regulated manner.
4. That governments establish a legal framework that provides an explicit basis for the prevention and prosecution of transplant related crimes, and protects the victims, regardless of the location where the crimes may have been committed, for example by becoming a Party to the Council of Europe Convention against Organ Trafficking.
5. That healthcare professionals perform an ethical and medical review of donors and recipients that takes account of their short- and long-term outcomes.
6. That governments establish registries of all organ procurement and transplants performed within their jurisdiction as well as all transplants involving their citizens and residents performed in another jurisdiction, and share appropriate data with international databanks.
7. That governments develop a legal framework for healthcare and other professionals to communicate information about suspected cases of transplant-related crimes, while respecting their professional obligations to patients.
8. That responsible authorities, with the support of the justice system, investigate transplants that are suspected of involving a crime committed within their jurisdiction or committed by their citizens or residents in another jurisdiction.
9. That responsible authorities, insurance providers, and charities not cover the costs of transplant procedures that involve human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal or organ trafficking. 10. That healthcare professional organizations involved in transplantation promote among their members awareness of, and compliance with, legal instruments and international guidelines against organ trafficking and human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal.
11. That the World Health Organization, the Council of Europe, United Nations agencies, including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and other international bodies cooperate in enabling a comprehensive collection of information on transplant-related crimes, to yield a clearer understanding of their nature and scope and of the organization of the criminal networks involved.
This consensus statement was signed by all the seventy five world leaders including the two from China.
Dr.Jiefu Huang, Chairman of National Organ Donation & Transplantation Committee from China assured the gathered leaders that the practise of organs from executed prisoners was stopped and statement such as this from the international community would help them further strengthen their programme and keep it ethical. Last year China became the second largest programme for deceased donation in the world after the USA.
India was represented by Dr. Sunil Shroff, President of Nephrology, Urology & Transplantation Society of SAARC, Vice President of Indian Society of Organ Transplantation and Managing Trustee, MOHAN Foundation and Dr.Sandeep Guleria, Senior Transplant Surgeon from Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Delhi. Dr.Guleria gave the Indian perspective of the organ donation programme and Dr.Shroff spoke about ‘Why does organ commerce take place in India despite a stringent law’.
Countries in conflict and without domestic stability can become the locations of transplant-related crimes. Jeffrey Sachs rightly wrote that “Sustainable development argues that economic policy works best when it focuses simultaneously on three big issues: first, promoting economic growth and decent jobs; second, promoting social fairness to women, the poor, and minority groups; and third, promoting environmental sustainability”.