Trafficking in human beings for the purpose of organ removal and the ethical and legal obligations of healthcare providers

T. Caulfield*, Wilma Duijst, M. Bos, I. Chassis, I. Codreanu, G. Danovitch, J. Gill, N. Ivanovski, M. Shin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Physicians and other health care professionals seem well placed to play a role in the monitoring and, perhaps, in the curtailment of the trafficking in human beings for the purpose of organ removal. They serve as important sources of information for patients and may have access to information that can be used to gain a greater understanding of organ trafficking networks. However, well-established legal and ethical obligations owed to their patients can create challenging policy tensions that can make it difficult to implement policy action at the level of the physician/patient. In this article, we explore the role-and legal and ethical obligations-of physicians at 3 key stages of patient interaction: the information phase, the pretransplant phase, and the posttransplant phase. Although policy challenges remain, physicians can still play a vital role by, for example, providing patients with a frank disclosure of the relevant risks and harms associated with the illegal organ trade and an honest account of the physician's own moral objections. They can also report colleagues involved in the illegal trade to an appropriate regulatory authority. Existing legal and ethical obligations likely prohibit physicians from reporting patients who have received an illegal organ. However, given the potential benefits that may accrue from the collection of more information about the illegal transactions, this is an area where legal reform should be considered.

Original languageEnglish
Article number60
Number of pages4
JournalTransplantation Direct
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016




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