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Statistics suggest Syrian refugees are a source of illegal organs

OCTOBER 25, 2017
Clinical Congress Daily Highlights, Wednesday First Edition

Researchers are concerned that Syrian refugees are being victimized by organ traffickers, based on an otherwise inexplicable rise in the number of living transplant donors in Turkey since 2011.

The World Health Organization estimates that 5 to 10 percent of transplants worldwide are performed illegally. Global organ trafficking, which generates from $600 million to $1.2 billion a year, often takes advantage of vulnerable populations, such as refugees, to provide organs for international transplant tourists.

A study led by Katherine M. March of the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson documented a recent increase in living transplant donors in Turkey that has not been mirrored in other countries. Using the International Registry on Organ Donation and Transplantation, March and her colleagues found that living organ donors in Turkey increased by 317 percent from 2005 to 2015 — and that the fastest rise coincided with the onset of the Syrian refugee crisis in 2011. At 45.4 donors per million population, Turkey’s donor rate is at least twice that of Iran, Lebanon, the U.S., Germany, or Spain.

The researchers suggest that to impact this global issue, future studies should document the extent of illegal organ trading, and a global registry for living donors should be used to identify forced or coerced individuals.

Additional Information:

The Scientific Forum presentation, Dehumanizing Wartime Refugees: Global Impact of Organ Trafficking, was held October 25 at the 2017 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons in San Diego, CA. Program, webcast and audio information is available online at

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