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Organ Trafficking Plagues Global Community

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 18 2013 (IPS) - With a rise in diseases worldwide that affect the liver, kidney, heart and pancreas, organ trafficking remains a challenge for the international community—a subject that Global Bioethics Initiative (GBI), a non-profit organization, has examined in great detail.

As part of a launch event last week, GBI assembled a panel of speakers in the fields of medicine, national security and research to discuss this booming industry and its impact on global culture.

Founded in 2011 by Charles Debrovner and Ana Lita, GBI’s main mission is to enhance the quality of life for all persons using education, research and policy change recommendations.

“Crimes of 21st Century: Organ Trafficking, Global Health and Security”, was held at the UN Plaza Hotel on 14 February and emphasized the need to look at organ trafficking as a human rights issue.  “The situation has led to the development of an international trade in organs which is recognized by the international community as being a global, human rights and health policy issue,” Lita told IPS.

So what’s the price of a kidney these days?  In an article published in the Guardian last May, a kidney can cost anywhere from 5,000 dollars to 200,000 dollars.  The technical skills of a transplant surgeon are not necessarily needed, making the process of trafficking for the removal of organs quick, profitable and widespread.

“We’ve been in the transplant business for half a century”, said David Rothman, professor of social medicine at Columbia University and a panelist at the discussion. An important note that begs the question: why the sudden momentum in combating this crime?

Due to recent cases made against the use of executed prisoners for acquisition of organs and criminal trials against traffickers, a new fire has been ignited and organisations and policy makers alike are searching for preventative measures.

As discussed by the panelists, collecting data and studying trends has been difficult.  For one, victims of organ trafficking are unlikely to come out and share their stories for fear of retaliation by the traffickers.  Additionally, traffickers and medical institutions that participate are not quick to admit their involvement.

“Internationally, there is no convention dealing with human organ trafficking.” Lita said, adding: “the dilemma is that the international community and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) like ours do not have a specific legal framework to pursue these traffickers.”

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