Pope Francis meets with key Members of The Transplantation Society traveling on behalf of the Declaration of Istanbul; including the mayor of Rome
Caption (left to right): Mirela Busic, Mehmet Haberal, Ignazio Marino (Mayor of Rome), Beatriz Dominguez-Gil, Francis Delmonico, His Holiness Pope Francis
“This is a world-wide problem,” Marino told journalists after the meeting. “And in recent years it has grown exponentially, because it is a phenomenon which takes advantage of poverty.”
“The Pope did not mince his words,” Marino told journalists. “"He has authorized us to say publicly that we need to encourage the donation of organs out of compassion, but the trade in organs is immoral and a crime against humanity.”
The Custodian Group of the Declaration of Istanbul (DICG) requested Mayor Marino (The mayor is a transplant surgeon himself, and trained at the Transplant Centre of the University of Cambridge and the University of Pittsburgh's Starzl Transplantation Institute.) to arrange a private audience with Pope Francis with the intention of deriving the support of Pope Francis for the principles of DOI and the mission of the DICG. The DICG delegation constituted was to ensure international representation, and from countries with outstanding deceased donation rates (Croatia and Spain). Professor Haberal was to be acknowledged as a benefactor of DICG.
Information presented to Pope Francis
- Only 10% (100,000) of the needed 1 million transplants are performed each year.
- Poor people are selling their organs throughout the world, with brokers exploiting their destitution.
- Organ trafficking violates the principles of justice, equity and respect for human dignity.
- Six years ago (2008), professionals from all over the world came to Istanbul to write the Declaration of Istanbul, to combat organ trafficking and transplant tourism and commercialism.
- DICG’s mission is to curtail these practices and promote ethical donation and transplantation throughout the world.
- Organ trafficking is continuing in at least China, South East Asia, Egypt, Pakistan, India, with recipients coming from Canada and US, Western European countries, Australia, and the Gulf countries. Organ trafficking has now made its way to Latin America. The extensive report by Kevin Sack in the NY Times was brought to attention.
- In the US, there is a movement to enable cash payments/benefits/college tuitions/tax credits/retirement benefits as a way of enticing the young to be compensated for their organs.
- DICG opposes that direction and needs support of Pope Francis to ensure that the US Congress will not amend the law prohibiting organ commercialization. Financial incentives are to be distinguished from removing financial disincentives and rendering the donor at a monetary loss.
- A seminal legal tool has just been adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe – a Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs. Wide support to this Convention will help national legislations to be aligned for prosecuting these illegal practices.
- Curtailing organ trafficking requires increasing organ availability and understanding donation as a gesture of social responsibility.
- Donation has been successfully developed in Croatia and Spain, based on a principle of community. DICG is now promoting the model of Croatia throughout South Eastern Europe.
Proposed recommendations as a result of our audience:
- Retain the prohibition against financial gain for organ donation, including in the United States, since amending NOTA would not only be consequential to the US, but to the rest of the world.
- Support the recently adopted Council of Europe Convention against organ trafficking.
- Call for deceased organ donation by all cultures throughout the world.
Result of the meeting:
- DICG has been invited to submit a background/reference document that Pope Francis will use in a pronouncement to be widely reported in 2015.