Organ Trafficking

June 24, 2022 • Volume 32, Issue 22
Can the illicit trade be stopped?
By Sarah Glazer


Although most countries ban the buying and selling of human organs, experts believe the black market for them is on the rise. The lost livelihoods and border closings in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic have left many migrants and refugees stranded, vulnerable to recruitment by organ traffickers promising money to pay their passage if they sell a kidney. Driving the market is the growing gap between patients waiting for a life-saving transplant and available organs. Some economists have proposed legalizing payments to kidney donors as an incentive to donate. But medical groups say that would commodify body parts and exploit the poor. Human rights activists want more countries to ban transplant tourism. But bans in Egypt have made the trade more violent and secretive, some experts say. In the future, animal organs and technology could provide an alternative to human organs, reducing trafficking, but ethicists say these methods raise other ethical questions.

Photo of Afghan men who sold kidneys, in Injil, on February 4, 2022. (AFP/Getty Images/Wakil Kohsar)
Afghan men who sold kidneys to feed their families show the scars from their surgeries in Herat in February. The collapse of Afghanistan's economy and widespread hunger have made Herat a center for kidney sales. (AFP/Getty Images/Wakil Kohsar)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Organ Transplants
Jun. 24, 2022  Organ Trafficking
Jul. 19, 2011  Organ Trafficking
Apr. 15, 2011  Organ Donations
Feb. 21, 2003  Organ Shortage
Aug. 11, 1995  Organ Transplants
Oct. 05, 1990  Transplants: Why Demand Exceeds Supply
Jul. 08, 1983  Renaissance in Organ Transplants
May 24, 1968  Heart Surgery and Transplants
Consumer Behavior
Consumer Protection and Product Liability
Global Issues
Infectious Diseases
International Law and Agreements
Medical Devices and Technology
Medical Profession and Personnel
Medical Research and Advocacy
Organized Crime
Powers and History of the Presidency
Regulation and Deregulation