Human organ transplantation

Organ transplantation is often the only treatment for end state organ failure, such as liver and heart failure. Although end stage renal disease patients can be treated through other renal replacement therapies, kidney transplantation is generally accepted as the best treatment both for quality of life and cost effectiveness. Kidney transplantation is by far the most frequently carried out transplantation globally.

The procurement of organs for transplantation involves the removal of organs from the bodies of deceased persons. This removal must follow legal requirements, including the definition of death and consent.

Kidney donation by well selected living donors with good health coverage carries negligible risks. This can only be ensured through rigorous selection procedures, careful surgical nephrectomy and follow up of the donor to ensure the optimal management of untoward consequences.

The Transplantation Society adopted a consensus statement on the care of the live kidney donor, prepared by a forum involving over 100 experts from more than 40 countries from around the world, in which representatives of WHO participated. This consensus statement addresses the responsibility of communities for living donors. In particular it defines the responsibilities of the transplant centre which is charged, inter alia, with facilitating the long-term follow up of living kidney donors and, if need be, their treatment, with identifying and tracking complications that may be important in defining risks for informed consent disclosure (Consensus Statement of the Amsterdam Forum [pdf 100kb] on the care of the live kidney donor).

The welfare of the live kidney donor is largely neglected in schemes where disadvantaged individuals are exploited and encouraged to sell their kidneys.

Resolution WHA57.18. (2004) acknowledges the risk of exploitation of live kidney donors and urges Member States to "protect the poorest and vulnerable groups from transplant tourism and the sale of tissue and organs" and requests the Director-General to provide support for Member States in this endeavour.


Contact information

Transplantation of human cells, tissues and organs
Service Delivery and Safety
Health Systems and Innovation
World Health Organization
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