London: Organ trafficking could be more widespread than currently reported and a concerted international effort is required to confront the problem, says a study.
"If countries do nothing about this problem, the consequences for both donors and recipients can be terrible, as they may have to deal with dreadful health outcomes," said study author Ana Manzano from the University of Leeds in Britain.
The true extent of organ trafficking is difficult to pinpoint because of a combination of factors, she pointed out.
Prominent among those is a reluctance to talk by those who give away their organs, because of fear of prosecution.
Moreover, there is no agreement between countries about what penalties should be in place for those who buy organs and little consistency in enforcing laws.
The high status of surgeons also plays a role.
"Some surgeons perform illegal transplants, knowing that they will only be caught if they are reported to regulatory bodies by colleagues," Manzano stressed.
The nature of organ trafficking offences span several countries, which makes tracing organs difficult.
Insurers play a part in the proliferation of organ trafficking by paying for follow-up treatment to transplant patients, the study noted.
"Together, these factors have helped create the practice of organ laundering - where the illegal purchase of organs takes on the veneer of a legal transaction," Manzano stressed.
"Unless these issues are addressed and countries work together to take firm action against the traffickers, more people who have their organs trafficked will die," she emphasised.
Organ trafficking is broadly defined as situations in which people are tricked into giving up organs for financial gain but are not paid for as agreed.
The research was published in the journal Transplantation.