Organ Transplant Abroad

What do you do if your doctor tells you that your heart is giving out, or that your kidneys are going to stop functioning within a year? What do you do if one of your lungs is failing, or your eyesight is decreasing your ability to do your job?

The question of organ donation and organ transplant is relevant to every country on the planet, and brings with it ethical debates, the prevalence of black market organ procurement to blood relative donations that help bypass the ever-growing list of individuals requiring an organ transplant for life.

The cost for organ transplants in the U.S. and Great Britain are extremely high, but some countries around the world, including India, Jordan, and Turkey, have been providing affordable organ transplants for decades. The level of experience and expertise from surgeons performing organ transplants is also very high, leading many to search out options for organ transplants abroad.

The Down Side of Organ Transplants - Black Marketing of Organs
Desperate people often engaged in desperate practices, including purchasing organs illegally through black-market operations. Countries around the world have been rocked by black-market organ scandals. As long as people have been desperate enough to buy something illegally, the black market has existed.

Villagers in India are enticed to selling a kidney for $800. The same goes for individuals in South America, South Africa, and many Central European countries. Some are promised up to $1,000 for a kidney. For the brokers, selling a kidney often nets them $6,000-$10,000, with the brokers receiving up to ten times that amount after the "sale" is completed. Other organs are even more profitable.

On the other end of the spectrum, recipients to this illegal organ trade may pay between $25,000 and $100,000 for the same kidney that the man in Africa or India sold for $800.  The problem isn't relegated to third world countries either. In 2004, a director at the University of California at Los Angeles was arrested for selling body parts of cadavers, receiving nearly $1 million in profits over a six-year period.

Legal Organ Donations
Nearly every country in the world bans the selling of human organs, even though the demand for organs vastly exceeds donors. Organ donations may come from recently deceased individuals or a living donor.  Individuals on an organ donation transplant waiting lists usually receive organ donation from a person who has recently died in an accident or an illness that does not affect the organs required by the donor.

A variety of laws both in the United States and abroad regulate tissue and organ donation and transplantation. Unfortunately, the need of individuals waiting for healthy organs vastly outweighs the number of individuals willing to donate an organ following their death, or those willing to engage in a live donation.

In the United States, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has promoted initiatives to increase organ donation. Every country offers specifics on what is considered legal and what is not. For individuals interested in traveling abroad for organ donations, caution and research are a must.

Living donors often contribute a portion of their liver or lung, as well as whole kidneys and corneas. Until 2008, organ sales were legal in the Philippines.

Relative Donations
Relative donations, or live donations, are an option that families may utilize to get around long waiting lists. Living donor transplants are common for organs such as:

  • liver segments
  • entire kidneys
  • lobes of a lung
  • a portion of intestine
  • a portion of the pancreas

Biologically related donors such as a brother or sister, a child, or a parent are preferred. However, unrelated donors may also include individuals such as friends, coworkers or acquaintances.

Matching donors to recipients is a long and complicated process. Donors and recipients must be compatible in blood type and anti-bodies, tissue typing, and blood tests.  Radiologic testing and cancer screening is also performed on both donor and recipient in order to provide the most promising match.

India and Turkey perform more 'living donation' organ transplantations than other countries, all from blood relatives. Matching relatives is easier than matching an unknown donor to a recipient. For example, in India, regulations require a 'first degree' blood relationship, such as a parent, child or sibling. In Turkey, regulations state organ donors may range from first degree to fourth degree, which designates a cadaver donation.

Regardless, blood should always match. The closer the relation to the donor, the more chance of matching not only blood but also while blood cell HLA antigen series, which translates to fewer anti-rejection drugs required and side effects. Viable donors are recommended at least 50% match in white cell antigen matching, with those closer to 100% are highly sought.

National Waiting List
Nearly 112,000 people are on the waiting list for organs in the United States alone. Of those, a little over 10,000 are actually lucky enough to receive an organ in time. Every year in America, over 6,000 people die while waiting for an organ, while in Europe, 20% of those requiring an organ transplant die before they receive one. In six months, just over 11,000 organ transplants were performed in the United States, while the actual list of donors numbered just over 5,500.

Debate continues whether organ donation is legal and ethical in countries around the world.  Culture and religion have a lot to do with the perception many people have regarding organ donation. However, the bottom line is this; anyone interested in traveling abroad for an organ transplant should verify legal avenues of procuring such organs or traveling to a foreign country to receive one.

When traveling abroad for organ transplant, your donor usually must travel with you. Hospitals that perform living donor transplants should be regulated and controlled through the Ministry of Health of the country, such as the Ministry of Health/Turkish Republic.

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