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"There is a level of complacency": trial exposes UK’s vulnerability to organ harvesting

The UK is supposed to have one of the best systems in the world for preventing vulnerable people being exploited for their organs. How then did one of its biggest hospitals become embroiled in the macabre trade of kidney harvesting?

The UK’s first trial organ trafficking trial has exposed alarming vulnerabilities to a illegal trade that makes up 10% of transplants worldwide. The case has highlighted how poverty can tempt some people to sell their body parts to those willing to exploit an acute global shortage of organs for donation.

The case heard that doctors at a private renal unit at London’s Royal Free hospital and the regulators, the Human Tissue Authority (HTA), were fooled by Dr Obinna Obeta, into approving his kidney transplant in July 2021.

As the prosecutor, Hugh Davies, said: “If there’s a lesson to be learned here – those clinicians need to set the index of suspicion for safeguarding somewhat lower.”

Dominique Martin, a professor of health ethics at Australia’s Deakin University who studies organ trafficking, said the case highlighted the need for robust vetting by hospitals and regulators.

She said: “There is a level of complacency, including in the UK, the US and Australia regarding the risks of organ trafficking happening within our borders. Screening programmes may not be as strong as we assume or as consistently implemented as we might expect.”

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Source: The Guardian, 23 March 2023


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