Stimulating and Enhancing Partnerships Between Transplant Professionals and Law Enforcement: Recommendations

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To help combat trafficking in human beings for organ removal (THBOR), transplant professionals need to do more than carry out careful, multidisciplinary screening of potential living donors; they also need to communicate and collaborate with law enforcement professionals. This will involve transplant professionals educating investigators and prosecutors about transplant practices and in turn learning about THBOR and how it is prosecuted. Cases of illegal organ transplantation need to be detected at different levels. First, the victims of the crime itself need to be identified, especially when they present themselves for screening. Physicians have a collective responsibility to prevent exploitation of people, including THBOR victims. The second level involves the more difficult matter of making reports that involve transplant tourists who have returned home after receipt of an organ and need follow-up care. Besides counseling patients prospectively about the legal as well as medical risks in receiving a vended organ in a foreign transplant center, physicians treating such patients could have an obligation to report what has happened, if the government has established a mechanism that either allows reporting THBOR that does not include the identity of the patient or that treats patients as victims provided they cooperate in investigation and prosecution of the persons responsible for obtaining or implanting the organs. The third level of cooperation involves transplant professionals who participate in THBOR. Professional societies need to undertake programs to make physicians and nurses aware that their responsibility to protect their professions' reputation includes identifying members of their professions who depart from professional ethics. Doing so allows the local professional societies and state boards to discipline such violators. All 3 of these functions would be facilitated by the creation by an international body such as World Health Organization of a registry of patients who travel internationally to receive a legitimate organ transplant.

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