More victims of organ trafficking in the U.K. are coming forward following the first organ trafficking conviction under modern slavery laws in the country.
Greater understanding of organ trafficking
Forced organ harvesting and organ trafficking are interlinked crimes where organs are taken from victims through coercion or without informed consent and sold illegally, often making their way into the organ tourism transplant market.
In many countries, impoverished people are targeted and coerced to sell an organ. The ‘donor’ is left without medical care and with significant health risks.
A high profile organ trafficking case in the U.K. this year saw a prominent Nigerian politician, Ike Ekweremadu, convicted for trafficking a street vendor from Nigeria to the U.K. with the intention to illegally harvest his kidney for a transplant to his seriously ill daughter.
The 21-year-old victim managed to flee and seek help from police after the proposed transplant was rejected at London’s Royal Free hospital. The victim feared he would be at risk of being coerced into another transplant in Nigeria.
Since this case, more victims across London and other parts of the U.K. have come forward with allegations.
Detective Superintendent Andy Furphy leads the modern slavery team for the London Metropolitan Police told the Guardian:
“It’s difficult to say how serious it is in the country right now. We often find as soon as something gets highlighted in the public sphere … others victims come forward. This is now not the only investigation we’ve got into organ harvesting.”
Raising the alarm
Detectives investigating Ekweremadu’s organ trafficking case advise that clinicians involved in transplants should raise the alarm with police where there may be suspicions of organ trafficking. Since then, officials on the case have done significant training with the Royal Free hospital..
Detective Inspector Andy Owen, who was also involved in the investigation, said:
“There’s definitely some sort of learning to come out of the hospitals and that’s something that we’re engaged in as a separate matter. They [the Royal Free] did raise safeguarding concerns and we’re doing a separate piece of work to up-skill them around modern slavery and the action they should be taking.”
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