Project 6: Kidney Sales and Trafficking




Lee, Crystal
Peng, Kenneth
Sajjad, Aryan
Yeum, Daniel

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


George Mason University

Research Projects

Organizational Units

Journal Issue


Background: Over the past few decades, international health authorities and law enforcement agencies have taken substantial initiatives to counteract the illicit practice of organ trade. These endeavors reflect a collective commitment to address the pressing issue of organ trafficking, which preys on vulnerable individuals and undermines ethical medical practices. In the 1980s and onwards, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been instrumental in formulating guidelines for human organ transplantation, emphasizing the importance of voluntary donations, transparency, and ethical sourcing [1]. Notably, INTERPOL launched Operation Organs in 2016, targeting criminal networks engaged in organ trafficking and emphasizing cross-border cooperation [4]. Despite the concerted efforts to combat the illegal practice of organ trade, instances of such illicit activities persist. The illicit kidney trade remains a complex and multifaceted phenomenon involving various transnational actors, including sellers, buyers, brokers, and surgical facilities [5]. A notable characteristic of this trade is the intricate network that often facilitates the transactions. For instance, affluent buyers typically do not directly engage with financially disadvantaged sellers. Instead, kidneys procured from economically marginalized individuals are often passed through intermediaries, commonly referred to as brokers [5]. Subsequently, medical facilities responsible for the surgical procedures are identified, contacted, and engaged by these buyers. While the complex interrelationships among agents spanning various countries have been acknowledged, there has yet to be a quantitative methodology explored to systematically detect and analyze the structure of these transnational networks engaged in organ trade. Typically, these networks are presented and examined on a case-by-case basis through individual reports, news articles, and various media channels. Given the inherent difficulty in eradicating these illicit transactions and their intricate multi-agent nature, it becomes imperative to explore the underlying network dynamics and establish a robust spatiotemporal database to comprehensively study these operations. Objective: The study analyzed illegal kidney sales by generating a network of graphs using data of seller, buyer, and surgery countries and observed relationships among seller, buyer, and surgery countries.