declaration of Istanbul

Organ transplantation is one of the life-saving medical breakthroughs of the 20th century. Over the years, this accomplishment has been marked by growing renal transplant waiting lists and a global organ supply and demand mismatch. As patients waiting for a life-saving transplant become desperate, brokers identified this vulnerability and created networks of illegal trafficking networks. While illegal transplantation may seem like a “win-win” for the recipient in need of a kidney and a donor in need of money, the long term effects are devastating to both donor and recipient. It also breaks down trust in healthcare systems.

In 2008, the International Society of Nephrology (ISN) and the Transplantation Society (TTS) brought together transplant, legal and bioethical experts, representing 180 countries in Turkey, to discuss the issues of organ trafficking and transplant tourism (DoI). Collectively they prepared a document named the Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism to guide doctors, transplant centers, ministries of health and policy makers on how to prevent organ trafficking and illegal travel for transplant.

This framework provides ethical guidance for global organ donation and transplantation practices and ensures donor and recipient safety. Though the DoI is not a legally binding document, it has gained authority both through the voluntary adherence by professional and governmental bodies to its principles and from being directly incorporated into national laws and regulations. Evident to this are the 180 national and international professional organizations and local governmental bodies that have publicly endorsed the principles of the DoI. The ISN has also set up a group to guide activities and help governments, as well as the medical and patient community fight this problem.

In 2018, the DoI was reviewed and updated, following a broad public consultation, to ensure that it provided clear and current guidance for policymakers and health professionals working in organ donation and transplantation.

Driving out illegal practices

The DoI calls on the medical community, especially transplant surgeons and nephrologists, to join the World Health Organization (WHO), to put pressure on Health Ministries with a transplantation program, to eliminate organ trafficking and transplant tourism.

The DoI is promoted, implemented and upheld by the Declaration of Istanbul Custodian Group (DICG).

For more information, please visit the Declaration of Istanbul website.


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