Committee calls on member States not to engage in the ‘Global Kidney Exchange’ concept

Recalling that human organs must not be bought or sold or give rise to financial gain, the committee expressed concern about the Global Kidney Exchange concept and made the following statement:

"The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe shares the concerns expressed by the European Committee on Organ Transplantation and the Council of Europe Committee on Bioethics with regard to the Global Kidney Exchange concept.

According to this new concept, potential living donor-recipient pairs from low- and middle-income countries who cannot afford the transplant procedure in their health-care system would be offered travel to high-income countries. There, the recipient would be given access to a kidney transplant, provided that their donor is able to facilitate a chain of transplants in patients from that high-income country.

The Committee recalls that the human body and its parts shall not, as such, give rise to financial gain. This fundamental principle is asserted in the Council of Europe’s Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine and in its Additional Protocol concerning Transplantation of Organs and Tissues of Human Origin. Accordingly, human organs must not be bought or sold or give rise to financial gain or comparable advantages for the person from whom they have been removed or for a third party. The Council of Europe Convention against trafficking in human organs establishes as a criminal offence any removal of organs performed in violation of this principle.

The Committee notes that the Global Kidney Exchange concept provides for a payment in kind for patients in low- and middle-income countries - in the form of surgery and medical treatment - in exchange for making a kidney available to a patient in a high-income country. The Committee notes that this may amount to a violation of the principle of non-commercialisation. It also notes that such a concept is likely to take unfair advantage of the poorest and most vulnerable patients and could lead to their exploitation.

The Committee therefore calls on the Council of Europe member states and their health authorities not to engage in the Global Kidney Exchange concept as currently defined, and hence not to consider the inclusion of “financially incompatible” donor-recipient pairs in any kidney exchange programme. The Committee calls on member States to instead support the development of equitable kidney paired exchange programmes that do not exploit financial inequalities between pairs (or countries)."