Organ and Tissue Trafficking: the Position of Swisstransplant

PD Dr. med. Franz Immer, CEO Swisstransplant, hält seine Rede am 1. Internationalen Expertenforum Transplantation und Menschenrechte in Bern


1. Organ trafficking is an illegal practice often undertaken by mafia-like networks that remove tissues or organs from living or deceased persons. This trafficking is often at the expense of poor people or occurs in under-developed countries.

2. In 2012, 68’073 people were waiting for a kidney transplant in Europe. Each day, 12 people on a transplant waitinglist die because of the lack of available organs (Newsletter Transplant 2013, EDQM).

Download PDF: Organ and Tissue Trafficking


  1. Organs have been sold and advertized in China.
  2. Several reports and testimonials confirm that organs have been harvested from prisoners and prisoners of consience and transplanted.
  3. Large political pressure, press releases and the information and initiatives as by the medical ethics advocacy group DAFOH on China leads to a reconsideration of these modalities of organ procurement:
    • collaboration at the level of organ donation networks
    • involvement of medical doctors at the level of the transplant community (TTS)
    • establishing legal structures of organ donation

General Considerations

The concept of donation from executed prisoners is not only an issue in China:

  • In a historic background, some of the first retrievals in France were done from executed prisoners (Dubost and Kuss).
  • In the USA, the State of Utah has passed a law allowing prisoners to be deceased donors and there are politicians who express their support (as wished by the prisoner itself). Right of appealing.
  • Taiwan has a law that permits the organ procurement from executed prisoners, but medical doctors have not used such organs for more than a decade, and doctors reject the law.

The Transplantation Society (TTS) has taken a measured approach:

  • Acceptsthatthereisalotof«smoke»andthereforemostlikely«fire» in China.
  • Requests for colleagues who wish to be members or the TTS to sign a declaration that they are against all sorts of unethical donation/ transplant practice, such as forced donation, coercion, donor and organ trafficking, etc.
  • Rejects radical approaches, such as not training transplant surgeons from China or not accepting them in congresses.
  • Has engaged with the Chinese government and is helping them to develop their transplant services, stop any kind of unethical transplant practices and bringing them up to TTS standards.

Convention to combat trafficking in human organs (Council of Europe)

  • signed by 14 European countries in March 2015, which will be required to take the necessary measures, including the adoption of ist domestic law to establish the illegal removal of human organs from living or deceased donors as a criminal offence:
  • where the removal is performed without the free, informed and specific consent of the living or deceased donor, or, in the case of the deceased donor, without the removal being authorised under its domestic law
  • where, in exchange for the removal of organs, the living donor, or a third party, receives a financial gain or comparable advantage
  • Where, in exchange for the removal of organs from a deceased donor, a third party receives a financial gain or a comparable advantage


  • Organ and tissue donation is an altruistic and free gift, it is the result of the biggest act of love for other human beings.
  • The organs from deceased or living donors that are sold for commercial profit are a symbol of vileness and deprive transplantation from its nobility and humanity.
  • A legal and transparent system of organ donation in each country based on ethical aspects and respecting the individual will of each person is the key for giving back hope to the patients on the organ waiting list
  • We as individuals and as a group will continue our resolute fight against organ and tissue trafficking.
  • Your decision and the communication of your decision to your family is crucial!

Quelle: 1. Int. Expertenforum Transplantation und Menschenrechte der IGFM in Bern

16. April 2015

PD Dr. med. Franz Immer, CEO Swisstransplant

1. Int. Forum: Reden der Referenten, english

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