Australia’s need for organ transplants contributing to black market trade, parliamentary report finds

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The waiting times for the estimated 1,400 Australians awaiting transplants is contributing to the AUD $2.3 billion worldwide organ trafficking trade, a report handed down by an Australian parliamentary committee states. The inquiry into ‘Human Organ Trafficking and Organ Transplant Tourism’ warns that that the organs donated each year in Australia does not meet the demand for the life-saving transplants.

Sadly, reality is that the demand for donor organs outstrips supply” MP Kevin Andrew wrote in the forward of the report. ” Addressing parliament, he added that “desperate people often facing certain death without a transplant may travel far from their own countries to places such as Egypt, the Philippines or Pakistan, paying tens of thousands of dollars or more, for an organ transplant, where the donor is most likely in dire financial straits, possibly exploited, and unable to give free and informed consent to donation.”

The 148 page report, released in November, made 12 recommendations to the government in an attempt to reduce waiting times and the impact of organ trafficking. Included in these were the recommendations that there be mandatory reporting for medical professionals of anyone suspected of receiving organs from non-consenting donors, increased criminilisation of organ trafficking, and for Australia to pursue a UN inquiry to investigate organ trafficking.

The inquiry also suggested further investigation into whether Australia changes to an “opt-out” system, where all Australian’s are registered organ donors, unless electing to have their names taken off the organ donor register. 9 out of the 10 top organ donation countries use an “opt-out” system. In the current “op-in” system in the nation, only one in three Australian’s are registered donors, despite nearly 70% responding they would be willing to become one when surveyed. 

It is estimated that there are 12,000 transplants worldwide annually involving trafficked organs, including 10% of all lung, heart and liver transplants, costing up to AUD $394,000 each. The purchase or sale of organs is prohibited by the World Health Organisation.

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