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Global Kidney Exchange, Organ trafficking, Organ donation


Global Kidney Exchange (GKE) is a program aimed at facilitating trans-national kidney donation. Although its proponents aim at reducing the unmet demand of kidneys in the United States through the trans-nationalization of kidney exchange programs, the World Health Organization (WHO) and The Transplantation Society (TTS) have expressed concerns about its potential effect on black markets of organs and transnational organ trafficking, as well as on low- or middle-income countries health systems. For GKE to be implemented, it would need to be permitted to operate in at least some low- or middle-income countries. Should a low- or middle-income country allow GKE’s implementation?

With the aim of answering this question, the eighteen University of Denver students in the Medical Anthropology course I [Alejandro Cerón] taught in autumn 2017, identified and researched the different aspects that would affect this issue, and delved in a holistic analysis we present in this report.

Based on our analysis, health authorities in low- or middle-income countries faced with decisions about GKE need to consider the following aspects: the country’s current and projected needs related to kidney transplant, as well as the capacity for addressing those needs; the country’s current situation related to organ trafficking, transplant tourism and black markets of organs; the current and projected legislation related to both organ donation and human trafficking; the prevailing ethical considerations that inform the practice of all professionals related to organ transplant in the country; analyze end-stage renal failure as a preventable disease needing public health measures; and the sociocultural aspects that surround organ donation in the country. We consider that the concrete configuration of these aspects would influence the effects of implementing GKE. Additionally, we identified some issues of concern that are beyond the level of influence of local authorities: the unmet demand of kidneys in high-income countries is a reality that incentivizes organ trade and transplant tourism, and this is a problem in need of solutions; transnational organ trafficking as well as human trafficking with the purpose of organ donation are problems that need more visibility; for a global exchange of organs to be implemented, it would need to rely on supranational or transnational regulation and oversight; and the global epidemic of chronic kidney disease needs to be addressed through a public health perspective that emphasizes prevention.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.