Patients and donors travel globally for transplantation purposes. This is not necessarily illegal. The 2008/2018 Declaration of Istanbul distinguishes between (legal) travel for transplantation and (unethical) transplant tourism:
"Travel for transplantation is the movement of persons across jurisdictional borders for transplantation purposes. Travel for transplantation becomes transplant tourism, and thus unethical, if it involves trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal or trafficking in human organs, or if the resources (organs, professionals and transplant centres) devoted to providing transplants to non-resident patients undermine the country's ability to provide transplant services for its own population."
In practice, it has proven to be next-to-impossible to distinguish travel for transplantation from transplant tourism. Transplant tourism is difficult to establish due to its legal complexity, jurisdictional loopholes and the lack of cross-border collaboration. There has also been critique against the transplant community's condemnation of transplant tourism. While transplant tourism is publicly condemned and can involve severe medical risks for patients and donors, there is emerging evidence that it is tolerated in practice.
- Declaration of Istanbul Custodian Group. Patient Brochure. Thinking of buying a kidney? At www.declarationofistanbul.org
- Martin, D. E., Van Assche, K., Domínguez-Gil, B., López-Fraga, M., Garcia Gallont, R., Muller, E., Capron, A. M. (2019). A new edition of the Declaration of Istanbul: updated guidance to combat organ trafficking and transplant tourism worldwide. Kidney International, 95(4), 757-759. doi:10.1016/j.kint.2019.01.006
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