The increasing trend of illicit trafficking of human organs around the world was the focus of discussion in the Vienna Forum convened by The United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking.
The Vienna Forum focused on international criminal networks that linked patients in need of transplants with surgeons, hospitals, laboratories, governments and desperate people who were willing to sell their organs because they needed the money.
Experts said that top transplant surgeons were collaborating with criminal organ- trafficking networks "to target the desperate."
"It involves people from the highest level of their profession," said Nancy Scheper-Hughes, founding director of Organs Watch, an academic research project at the University of California, Berkeley.
Some surgeons are "willing to collaborate with the lowest levels of society with criminal networks, brokers and with kidney hunters, who are the absolutely necessary factor," she said.
"Trafficking doesn't have to be transnational and can also be found within countries," Scheper-Hughes said.
A man in Gurgaon, India, hit the headlines recently when he was accused of being the leader of a racket that is alleged to have illegally removed hundreds of kidneys and supplied them world over. Authorities believe his group sold up to 500 kidneys to clients who traveled to India from around the world in the past nine years.
In December 2007, a World Health Organization bulletin had a paper that highlighted the "shortage of an indigenous supply of organs leading to the development of the international organ trade."
In his paper, Yosuke Shimazono said, "Despite growing awareness of the issue, the reality of the international organ trade is not well understood due to a paucity of data and also a lack of effort to integrate the available information."