Erasmus MC leads study on illegal organ trafficking

Erasmus MC leads study on illegal organ trafficking

Erasmus MC is to lead an international research project on human trafficking for organ removal. The purpose of the study is for Erasmus MC to assess the knowledge on this relatively new type of serious crime so as to be able to improve efforts to combat it. In addition to Dutch institutions, institutions from Romania, Sweden, Bulgaria and Spain will also contribute to the research project. The European Police Office, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Eurotransplant and the European Society for Organ Transplantation (ESOT) will also be closely involved in the project.

There is a worldwide ban on the sale of organs. With the great demand for organs, however, there is increasing evidence of organ tourism, where patients travel abroad for the transplant of an organ that could have been purchased. Donors, whether forced or not, often become victims of human trafficking. However, little is known about how often it occurs and how criminal organizations, physicians and others involved operate.

The research project, which will be funded by the European Commission, will run for three years and will be led by Prof. Willem Weimar and criminologist/international lawyer Frederike Ambagtsheer of the Nephrology and Transplantation department of Erasmus MC. The knowledge gained on human trafficking for organ removal will be shared with international investigative bodies, transplantation experts as well as human rights and development cooperation organizations that will have to create awareness on this type of serious crime.

In 2014, an international conference will be organized where all involved institutions – both medical and judicial – will meet to share and disseminate the knowledge gained. It is hoped that partnerships will also be forged at the conference to improve the efforts to combat human trafficking for organ removal.

This is the first time that a hospital has taken the initiative in setting up such a research project on human trafficking for organ removal. It is also the first time that the European Commission financially supports such a study.

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