Combating Human Trafficking for the Purpose of Organ Removal: Lessons Learned from Prosecuting Criminal Cases

  • Frederike AmbagtsheerEmail author
Living reference work entry


Trafficking in human beings for the purpose of organ removal (THBOR) is a new and neglected form of human trafficking about which limited knowledge and awareness exists. A growing body of research suggests that the crime is proliferating globally. Nonetheless, the number of convictions remains considerably low. This chapter presents the experiences of police and prosecution in investigating and prosecuting two cases that involved (elements of) THBOR: the Netcare Case and the Medicus Clinic Case. The overarching objective is to draw lessons from police and prosecutors’ experiences and to offer possible explanations for why convictions of THBOR remain almost nonexistent. In both cases, police and prosecutors experienced numerous challenges, among which the length of the investigations, lack of experience prosecuting THBOR, lack of knowledge and awareness of THBOR, lack of resources, evidentiary issues, and legal loopholes. Lessons learned in the fight against THBOR also include reluctance to prosecute transplant professionals and other complicit officials. Indicators and reporting mechanisms for transplant professionals may be effective tools to improve nonlegislative responses to THBOR. Medical professionals and law enforcement should collaborate in the combat against THBOR. Despite these strategies, the challenges to investigation and prosecution of THBOR are likely to remain significant. Criminal prosecution should not be thought of as the primary tool for addressing all forms of organ trade but should be focused exclusively on excessive exploitation. Initiatives that boost organ supply, reduce harm, and enhance victim protection should be emphasized regardless of the success or failure of the prosecution of THBOR.


Trafficking in human beings for organ removal Organ trade Organized crime Prosecution Criminal justice Law enforcement 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Internal Medicine, Section Transplantation and NephrologyErasmus MCRotterdamThe Netherlands

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