Cross-border Quest: The Reality and Legality of Transplant Tourism

F. Ambagtsheer, D. Zaitch, R. van Swaaningen, W. Duijst, W. Zuidema, W. Weimar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background. Transplant tourism is a phenomenon where patients travel abroad to purchase organs for transplants. This paper
presents the results of a fieldwork study by describing the experiences of Dutch transplant professionals confronted by patients
who allegedly purchased kidney transplants abroad. Second, it addresses the legal definition and prohibition of transplant tourism
under national and international law. The final part addresses the legal implications of transplant tourism for patients and
physicians. Methods. The study involved seventeen interviews among transplant physicians, transplant coordinators and policyexperts
and a review of national and international legislation that prohibit transplant tourism. Results. All Dutch transplant centers
are confronted with patients who undergo transplants abroad. The estimated total number is four per year. Transplant tourism
is not explicitly defined under national and international law. While the purchase of organs is almost universally prohibited,
transplant tourism is hardly punishable because national laws generally do not apply to crimes committed abroad. Moreover, the
purchase of organs (abroad) is almost impossible to prove. Conclusions. Transplant tourism is a legally complex phenomenon
that warrants closer research and dialogue. The legal rights and obligations of patients and physicians confronted with transplant
tourism should be clarified.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Transplantation
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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