Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 8-1-2020

Publication Citation

27 Indiana J. Global Legal Studies 409 (2020)


Medical tourism, as defined by scholar Glenn Cohen, is "the travel

of residents of one country to another country for treatment."'

Transplant tourism, a type of medical tourism, is traveling abroad to

purchase an organ for transplant. Although organ sale is currently

illegal in every country except Iran, many countries-such as India, the

Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Egypt-have thriving black

markets for these goods. Organ transplants are often the only effective

means of treating end state organ failure, and the demand for

transplants is especially high in developed and middle-income

countries. Shortages of available donors and organs, however, have

caused an increased demand with a limited supply. The Global

Observatory on Donation and Transplantation estimates that in 2013,

there were 118,000 organs transplanted globally, meeting only 10

percent or less of global needs. This gap in supply and demand has

created a black market for underground organ sales where poor and

vulnerable individuals sell their organs to brokers, who then resell these

organs at higher costs. In 2011, the World Health Organization

estimated that global illicit organ sales produced between $600 million

and $1.2 billion annually. The market that has emerged is harmful to

sellers in many aspects, and sellers are often taken advantage of by

brokers' manipulative tactics.

This paper will explore the problems associated with black market

organ sales and analyze its effects on sellers" (i.e., the people selling

their organs) and the tourists (i.e., the people who travel abroad for

transplantation). Part I will give an overview of how transplant tourism

operates, focusing specifically on kidney sales. Part II will address

ethical arguments for why transplant tourism is harmful to sellers. Part

III will address the international response to this phenomenon and the

various international protocols in place. Finally, Part IV will propose

regulatory solutions that are aimed at protecting sellers. Since a

thriving black market already exists, regulation-instead of outright

prohibition-is the best solution for protecting sellers' well-being who are

currently unprotected in the market.

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