Medical tourism/exploitation is an increasing phenomenon of our global agenda. It provides ethical dilemmas for social workers all over the world in combatting human rights abuses. The differences in economic wealth and ease of travel have provided an opportunity for poor people, or people without power to be exploited. They are encouraged to sell or have taken from them vital organs to be transplanted into the bodies of people who can afford to pay for their body parts. The recipients do not want to wait for organs to become available by more ethical practices in their countries of origin.
The dilemma for social workers and others who are aware of these situations is in challenging these highly unethical practices and in supporting the victims of these situations. The powerful organisers of these organ transplants exercise use techniques that ensure that victims are silent and are in the shadows of our society. Equally the people who can afford to exploit the vulnerable are in positions of power that secrecy is ensured at their end of the transaction.
In the countries where the vulnerable are being exploited, particularly those in poverty or in detention, empowering the people to challenge the practice of selling or stealing organs will require support from the global social work community. Equally in the countries where medical social workers are working with the recipients of these exploited organs there is a responsibility to discuss openly the abuse being caused to the person from whom the organ came.
This is not just a dilemma for social workers but we are the profession that helps people when they have been harmed or abused. We hear their histories of abuse and we are in a strong position to speak of the reality of their experience, if they cannot do it themselves. We know how difficult it is for them and their families make that journey to recover, wherever possible, a sense of well-being. But it is infinitely more helpful if we can tell the reality of this abuse of human rights so that we, along with other people in the world can campaign for an end of these abuses.
Doctors Against Organ Harvesting have launched a petition to request an independent investigation team to China. You’ll find the link to the petition here.
We have agreed to bring this to our member’s attention for their consideration
IFSW Human Rights Commission