Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Cell Sell: The ethics of the transnational human tissue market

By Elisabeth Lopez

Stem cell expert Megan Munsie and bioethicist Dominique Martin discuss medical tourism and the hidden transnational trade in transplant organs and stem cells, considering their ethics, legislative implications and what the future might hold.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Hello. I'm Elisabeth Lopez. Thanks for joining us.

If you're living with kidney failure or bringing up a child with a disabling condition like cystic fibrosis, you'll be thinking a lot about what medical science can offer and maybe banking on a miracle. The bad news is that there is a global industry waiting to fleece people desperate for a cure or even just a little relief from the worst symptoms. Each year thousands of people from wealthy countries travel overseas to receive an organ transplant or to undergo an experimental stem cell treatment.

They won't be told that the procedure on which they may have spent their life savings is likely to be sustaining a clandestine trade worth billions of dollars. Even though they take place in hospitals, these procedures are often poorly regulated. Sometimes they're harmless but ineffective and sometimes they're dangerous or even fatal for the recipients and the donors. At the extreme end, it sounds like the stuff of science fiction and crime novels - slick marketing, desperate poverty, human trafficking, organ donors killed on demand - only it's actually happening.

Today on Up Close we have two guests to talk...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.