Transplant Tourism and Organ Trafficking: Current Practices, Controversies and Solutions

Document Type : Perspective


1 School of Medicine, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland

2 School of Medicine, International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

3 School of Medicine and Medical Science, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

4 Department of Medicine, Joondalup Hospital, Perth, Australia



The controversial subject of transplant tourism has been neglected in the travel medicine literature. According to the Declaration of Istanbul, travel for transplantation can be regarded as transplant tourism if it involves organ trafficking and/or commercialised transplantation activities. While no registry of transplant tourism activities exists, published case series point to significant negative clinical outcomes. Adverse outcomes among donors include postoperative depression and anxiety, deterioration in health status, poor surgical wound care, and negative financial effects. Poor perioperative management, inadequate immunosuppression, blood transfusion-associated infections, antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections and invasive fungal infections, are among the most commonly reported complications in transplanted patients. Iran operates a legal and ethically regulated system of rewarded altruistic kidney donation. Travel medicine practitioners have a role to play in protecting the health of intending transplant tourists through targeted pre-travel health counselling and vaccination.