Organ trafficking addressed by international business pros

Patriya Tansuhaj and Man Zhang are applying their international business expertise in hopes of engaging the bright side of globalization to lessen its dark side — illegal organ trafficking.

Tansuhaj, professor and director of WSU’s International Business Institute, and Zhang, an international business doctoral student, are researching global sourcing strategies as applied to increased human organ donation and use. Their work is intended to reduce illegal human organ trafficking, which has become a truly global business phenomenon.

Although globalization has made it easier for organ trafficking to occur, it also could be used to reduce organ trafficking, Tansuhaj said. Global information technology, for instance, could help create a worldwide database that effectively matches donors with recipients across borders. The global network of bone-marrow donor registries is a successful example.

Demand outstrips supply
Human organ trafficking has become an issue because the supply of legal organs for transplant does not meet the demand. People are desperate for organs because lives are at stake; this drives up the price of organs and makes it lucrative for people to get involved in the illegal trade. Body parts are bought and sold illegally, treated as commodities on the black market.

In addition to fueling the black market trafficking of organs, Zhang said, globalization also has created wider gaps between rich and poor. The usual flow of organs is from the poor in third-world to the rich in first-world countries. This is because the poor see the ability to make money from organ trafficking.

Organs often originate in countries such as India, Korea, South Africa, Brazil, Israel, Romania and China. However, most countries have ties to trafficking because of the interconnection of global trade.

Although horror stories of “organ mafias” and drugged travelers waking up with one less organ have been told over and over again, Tansuhaj said the most common form of organ trafficking today is poor people selling their organs on the black market. They will sell any organs they can survive without, and the organs are then smuggled into rich countries and into the bodies of wealthy patients. Patients also may travel to the country where the organs are. This process occurs despite bans on such trade by most governments.

“Illegal trade of organs has been made easier with more opened borders, faster international travel, shipping and communications that result from globalization,” Tansuhaj said. “However, globalization is also a solution for effective global sourcing of donated organs to the right place and at the right time.”

Sourcing vs. trafficking
To help curb trafficking, global law enforcement agencies are beginning to work across country borders more effectively than in the past, Tansuhaj said. But she and Zhang hope to add to the efforts to minimize trafficking.

They plan to study and recommend a strategy and practice for global sourcing that would deter and replace organ trafficking. They hope the medical field will develop a system for receiving legal organ donations through creating an international database of donors to match donors and patients worldwide, thereby increasing availability to match the rapidly rising demand for organs. This would be possible via information technology capabilities and utilization of other organizational resources, they said.

Tansuhaj said she advocates marketing to promote the importance of legal donations.

Tansuhaj and Zhang recognize that they also need to examine corporate responsibility and professional ethics in the medical field. They want to motivate doctors and medical providers to form and join an international database of volunteer donors instead of participating in the black market.

Tansuhaj and Zhang are gathering information from hospital administrators and doctors in China, Korea and the United States to compare and contrast each country’s organ-donation processes. They plan to have study results tabulated by summer. Eventually, they hope to publish strategies and suggestions that will help minimize the practice of human organ trafficking.

“We want to use our international business knowledge to influence change in this area of the dark side of globalization,” Tansuhaj said.

With their research effort, the bright side may yet emerge victorious.

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