Last updated on 13 Dec 2022

Organ trafficking: modern day slavery

In part, the Human Tissue Act 2004 was introduced to ensure that living organ donors have made an informed and voluntary decision to donate their organ; free from duress, coercion and reward. Organ trafficking and modern day slavery is a concern for all healthcare professionals.

Modern slavery encompasses a broad range of offences including forced labour, domestic servitude and illegal organ removal. If you suspect that a person is a victim of slavery and/or organ trafficking, we urge you to trust and act on your professional instinct and report this to the clinical team. 

Measures we have in the UK to prevent trafficking in addition to the Human Tissue Act 2004:

  • Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (“the Convention”), which entered into force on 1 April 2009 in the UK. The UK has ratified this Convention.
  • Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs. The treaty invites governments to criminalise trafficking in human organs, and to take measures to protect victims. This is the first international legally binding document to address the issue of organ trafficking from a criminal law viewpoint. The UK signed this in March 2015.
  • Declaration of Istanbul was signed in 2008. The Declaration is a ‘Bible for transplant ethics’ that has the aim of tackling transplant tourism, trafficking and commercialisation on an international scale.

More information on modern slavery and human trafficking, and its implications to living organ donation and other medical procedures can be found on the Royal College of Nursing website.