Kidney transplant tourism: cases from Canada

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 16 (4):921-924 (2013)

Abstract
Canada has a marked shortfall between the supply and demand for kidneys for transplantation. Median wait times for deceased donor kidney transplantation vary from 5.8 years in British Columbia, 5.2 years in Manitoba and 4.5 years in Ontario to a little over 2 years in Quebec and Nova Scotia. Living donation provides a viable option for some, but not all people. Consequently, a small number of people travel abroad to undergo kidney transplantation by commercial means. The extent to which they are aware of the potential risks to their health and the health of the kidney vendors is unclear. Travel abroad to obtain a kidney commercially i.e. transplant tourism (TT), raises ethical issues which include the exploitation of the poor, uncertainty of donor informed consent to nephrectomy, poor clinical care and lack of follow up for the donor, commodification of the body and inequity of access to medical care for donors. Also, TT widens socioeconomic disparities in access to transplantation, differing from the Canadian system of universal coverage for healthcare. The Canadian transplant community has discussed how to respond to patients who plan to travel abroad for TT or return with a purchased kidney. Unease rests in the tension between the duty to care for legitimate Canadian residents and the unwillingness to enable TT. This paper discusses three anonymized cases and the Canadian responses to TT as recorded in academic literature and a formal statement by relevant professional bodies
Keywords Kidney transplant  Kidney vendor  Living donor  Organ sales  Transplantation  Transplant tourism
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DOI 10.1007/s11019-012-9450-4
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