The Compassion, Not Commerce: An Inquiry into Human Organ Trafficking and Organ Transplant Abuse Report from the joint standing committee on foreign affairs defence and trade has made 12 recommendations for law reform to address Australian participation in illicit trade practices.
It also looks to strengthen international frameworks for the combat of organ trafficking and organ transplant tourism.
Speaking on behalf of the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, co-chair of the business and human rights subcommittee Madeleine Bridgett said that “ALHR welcomes the report’s important recommendations regarding amendments to Commonwealth criminal laws to make trafficking in human organs or soliciting a commercial organ transplant an offence.”
In particular, the organisation welcomes “the recommendation that such offences should have extraterritorial application and therefore capture the conduct of any Australian citizen, resident or body corporate whether occurring inside Australia or overseas.”
The report recommends the government meets international best practice standards through establishment of a comprehensive organ donation data collection repository; a multilingual public health education programme to address legal, ethical and medical risks associated with participation in organ transplant tourism; and a mandatory reporting scheme placing an obligation on medical professionals to report knowledge or reasonable suspicion that a person under their care has received a commercial transplant or one sourced from a non-consenting donor either in Australia or overseas.
With only one in three Australians registered as donors, Ms Bridgett said the report importantly recommends “the Australian government seeks to improve organ donation rates, including by investigating Opt-Out organ donation programs to determine whether they could be appropriate for the Australian health system.”
The ALHR “also welcomes the report’s recommendations that Australia engage internationally by signing and ratifying the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs”, Ms Bridgett continued, while working with the United Nations “to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate organ trafficking in countries where it is alleged to occur on a large scale.”
This convention is the only international treaty to make trafficking in organs illegal.
By acceding to this, “Australia would be sending a clear message to the international community that it is committed to criminalising organ trafficking, including the transportation, transfer, receipt, import and export of organs removed without the free, informed and specific consent of the donor,” Ms Bridgett explained.
The report also includes a recommendation that the Australian government urgently work with state and territory governments to ensure that persons or body corporates importing human tissue for commercial purposes into Australia produces verifiable documentation of the consent of the donor or their next-of-kin.
For Ms Bridgett, “the recent Real Bodies exhibition in Sydney, and all exhibitions of this type in Australia, evidence an alarming lacuna in our laws whereby the importation of human organs or human tissue is not illegal and there is no requirement for verifiable documentation of the identity and consent of the deceased or next of kin.”
“Businesses should not be in a position to profit from the illegal harvesting of organs or tissues, and nor should they violate the deceased and their families’ rights to dignity and respect,” Ms Bridgett said.
In light of serious legal and human rights concerns about organ harvesting from executed prisoners of conscience in China, the “ALHR urges the Morrison government to act swiftly to implement all twelve recommendations of the report in full.”