Human cells and tissues are routinely used for medical purposes,
transplantation and research. This includes corneas, heart valves,
skin, stem cells, sperm and oocytes. New technologies help save
lives, improve quality of life and help individuals to become parents.
However, such use raises ethical and legal questions.
The principles of prohibition of financial gain, free and
informed consent and the prevalence of the interests of the human
being over those of society are enshrined in the international legal
framework. However, cases of procurement without consent, inadequate
testing, false donor files, irresponsible allocation and illegal
trade have been reported. The absence of an internationally accepted
definition of “trafficking of human tissues and cells”, cross-border
situations, differences in national legislation and the rapid evolution
of technologies make it difficult to prosecute illicit activities.
The Council of Europe has a mandate to protect human rights
as well as expertise on human tissues and cells. It is therefore
well placed to support decision making on what activities should
be criminalised and ensuring that these decisions are respected.
The Parliamentary Assembly should thus call on the Committee of Ministers
to take the lead and develop a binding legal instrument on combating
trafficking in human tissues and cells.