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Transplant tourism poses ethical dilemma for US doctors
Date:1/26/2010

A recent case study by doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York examined the ethical issues posed by transplant tourism, an offshoot of medical tourism, which focuses solely on transplantation surgery. Many American transplant professionals frown on the practice of transplant tourism where patients travel to countries such as China, India, and the Philippines for their transplantation. These transplant tourists may be subject to sub-standard surgical techniques, poor organ matching, unhealthy donors, and post transplant infections, prompting U.S. health care institutions to refuse treatment of these patients upon return to the U.S. Medical associations have responded with transplant tourism policies and guidelines to advise clinicians on the ethics of caring for transplant tourists. Full details of the study appear in the February issue of Liver Transplantation, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD).

Some might think of transplant or medical tourism as merely a fictional plot from one of Robin Cook's medical thriller books (Foreign Body). However, given the critical shortage of available organs in the U.S., transplant tourism has grown in popularity among patients awaiting transplantation. Currently, the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) reports there are more than 105,000 Americans on the transplant candidate waiting list with more than 15,000 patients awaiting a liver transplant. Furthermore, UNOS data shows a decline in donorship with living donor numbers decreasing by 1.7% and deceased donors down by 1.2% in 2008.

In the current case, a 46-year-old Chinese accountant (HQ) was placed on the UNOS transplant registry with a Model for End Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score of 18 that increased to 21 while on the candidate waitlist for over a year (MELD scores range from 6 for those least ill through 40 for those most sick). HQ then traveled to
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Contact: Dawn Peters
medicalnews@wiley.com
781-388-8408
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert

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