organ trafficking

organ trafficking

Organ trafficking was first defined by the 2008 Declaration of Istanbul. A full definition of this term is now also found in Article 4 of the 2015 Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs. The 2018 Declaration of Istanbul adapted its definition to realign it with the definition in the Council of Europe Convention. The definition of organ trafficking does not distinguish between organ trade (payments for organs) and trafficking (exploitation). The definition in the 2018 Declaration of Istanbul reads as follows:

"Organ trafficking consists of any of the following activities:

(a) removing organs from living or deceased donors without valid consent or authorisation or in exchange for financial gain or comparable advantage to the donor and/or a third person;
(b) any transportation, manipulation, transplantation or other use of such organs;
(c) offering any undue advantage to, or requesting the same by, a healthcare professional, public official, or employee of a private sector entity to facilitate or perform such removal or use;
(d) soliciting or recruiting donors or recipients, where carried out for financial gain or comparable advantage; or
(e) attempting to commit, or aiding or abetting the commission of, any of these acts."


Selected reading

  • Council of Europe (2019) Handbook for Parliamentarians. The Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs (CETS No. 216).  Available here
  • The Declaration of Istanbul (2018). The Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism (2018 Edition). At
  • Columb, S., Ambagtsheer, F., Bos, M., Ivanovski, N., Moorlock, G., & Weimar, W. (2017). Re‐conceptualizing the organ trade: separating “trafficking” from “trade” and the implications for law and policy. Transplant International, 30(2), 209-213.
  • Columb, S. (2015). Beneath the organ trade: a critical analysis of the organ trafficking discourse. Crime, Law and Social Change, 63(1-2), 21-47.
  • Trafficking in organs, tissues and cells and trafficking in human beings for the purpose of the removal of organs.  Joint Council of Europe/United Nations study. Directorate General of Human Rights and Legal Affairs. Council of Europe. 2009. Available here.


Empirical studies

  • Orr, Z. (2022). "Localised medical moralities: organ trafficking and Israeli medical professionals." The International Journal of Human Rights: 1-24.
  • Columb, S. (2020). Trading Life: Organ Trafficking, Illicit Networks, and Exploitation, Stanford University Press.
  • Columb, S. (2017). "Excavating the Organ Trade: An Empirical Study of Organ Trading Networks in Cairo, Egypt." British Journal of Criminology 57(6): 1301-1321.
  • Lundin, S. (2016). Organs for Sale: An Ethnographic Examination of the International Organ Trade, Springer