Background: Enhancements in the national transplant law to prohibit commercial transplants in India have curbed the trade. Yet, the human rights abuse of human trafficking for organ removal (HTOR) continues in various transplant centers throughout India.
Methods: Beginning in September 2010 until May 2012, in-depth interviews were conducted with 103 victims of HTOR in India in which victims described their experiences of a commercial kidney removal in compelling detail. Victims were located in Tamil Nadu, and reference is made to the broader study that included 50 additional victims in small towns and villages in West Bengal and Karnataka.
Results: Fourteen cases (14%) in Tamil Nadu and an additional 20 cases (40%) from West Bengal and Karnataka occurred between 2009 to May 2012. The cases in Tamil Nadu ranged in age from 19 to 55 years, with an average age of 33 years in Erode and 36 years in Chennai. Fifty-seven percent of the victims in Erode are female, and 87% of the victims in Chennai are female. Twelve percent of the individuals were widowed or abandoned, 79% were married, and 91% were parents with an average of two kids. Of those interviewed, 28% had no formal education, 19% had some primary schooling, 22% had some secondary schooling, and no individuals reported schooling above high school. All victims interviewed lived in abject poverty with monthly income levels well below the national average. The majority of victims reported long lasting health, economic, social, and psychological consequences. No matter the reason expressed for an organ sale, all victims reported that they would not have agreed to the organ removal if their economic circumstances were not so dire. One hundred percent of the victims interviewed expressed that they need assistance to cope with these consequences.
Conclusions: Human trafficking for an organ removal continues in private transplant centers throughout India, service to foreign patients is ongoing, and victims’ consequences are long lasting. A rights-based response to HTOR that invokes a universal commitment to prevent, protect, and suppress its continued practice is recommended. The United Nations Trafficking Protocol is the key international instrument to address trafficking of persons, including for organ removal. India has signed the UN Trafficking Protocol and should ratify it to better address this form of human trafficking.