Transplant Tourism: The Ethics and Regulation of International Markets for Organs

17 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2013

Date Written: April 20, 2013


“Medical Tourism” is the travel of residents of one country to another country for treatment. In this article I focus on travel abroad to purchase organs for transplant, what I will call “Transplant Tourism.” With the exception of Iran, organ sale is illegal across the globe, but many destination countries have thriving black markets, either due to their willful failure to police the practice or more good faith lack of resources to detect it. I focus on the sale of kidneys, the most common subject of transplant tourism, though much of what I say could be applied to other organs as well. Part I reviews some data on sellers, recipients, and brokers in these markets. Part II discusses the bioethical issues posed by the trade - I skeptically evaluate some of the typical arguments for prohibiting the trade but suggest a different kind of argument that might work better. Part III focuses on potential regulation to deal with these issues. The definitive version of the article can be downloaded from the Journal's website as hosted by Wiley-Blackwell.

Keywords: Organ, transplantation, medical tourism, ethics, regulation, medicine, exploitation, coercion, paternalism, philosophy, insurance

Suggested Citation

Cohen, I. Glenn, Transplant Tourism: The Ethics and Regulation of International Markets for Organs (April 20, 2013). Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics, Vol. 41, No. 1, 2013, Available at SSRN:

I. Glenn Cohen (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1525 Massachusetts Avenue
Griswold Hall 503
Cambridge, 02138
United States

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