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Health & Medicine

Why Thousands of People are Traveling for Transplantation Tourism

— July 18, 2019

Organ transplantation is proven to be an effective therapy for end-stage organ failure. Today, it is widely practiced around the world. With the beginning of globalization and traditions of consumerism, there is an increasing trend among people to travel in search of enhanced quality and inexpensive health options in emerging nations that have the same benchmarks in healthcare as their Western counterparts. This trend is known as transplantation tourism.

In the 21st century, speedy scientific innovation and medical advancement drove an explosion of healthcare facilities in developing countries like India and Malaysia. They provide the benefits of the latest medical techniques and technological innovations to patients from within the country and from abroad, too. The cost factor is the biggest driver prompting people with the necessary resources to travel to developing countries. This helps them to procure international standard medical care or organ transplantation that was too costly in their own countries.

Let’s first understand what organ transplantation actually means.

What is organ transplantation?

Organ transplantation is the surgical procedure in which donated organ is transferred to someone diagnosed with organ failure. In this medical procedure, an organ is removed from one body and placed in the recipient’s body to replace a damaged or missed organ.

There are various diseases which can lead to organ failures such as heart diseases, diabetes, cirrhosis, cystic fibrosis, and hepatitis. Major injuries and birth defects may also become the reason for organ failure.

Top 9 Organs that can be transplanted 

Organs that can be transplanted are liver, kidney, heart, lung, pancreas, intestine, skin, cornea, and bone tissues.

Most Popular Organ Transplantation

There are main 3 transplants which are very popular with people to travel abroad.

  1. Kidney transplantation
  2. Heart transplantation
  3. Lung Transplantation

Reasons Why People Choose to Travel Thousand of Miles for Transplant Therapy

When the total number of organ donors in a country turns down, people travel outside their home country to receive treatments.Why people are frequently crossing national borders for organ transplantation can be classified as follows.

  1. Affordability of Care

Affordability is the principal driver in the transplant tourism model. Generally, patients want trouble-free access to donors and nominal surgery costs without doing any compromises on the quality of treatment. So, affordability is the main reason for people traveling abroad for organ transplantation.

  1. Availability of Care

Sometimes, patients travel because transplantation therapy, expertise, or adequate facilities are not available or easily accessible in their home country. Some countries even have some legal and social restrictions so patients from those countries preferred to travel abroad for organ transplantation.

  1. Timeliness of Care

Organ transplantation is a type of procedure that has to be done without delay. A patient who has an organ failure can’t wait for a long time to have a treatment. Some developed countries like Thailand, India, and Turkey, are the most preferred locations for transplantation due to the timeliness of care they offer.

  1. Patient Preference for Specific Providers and Geographic Locations

Sometimes patients desire to have care by a specific provider or have a preference for some geographic locations. That is also one reason for traveling abroad for the treatment.

Popular Destinations for Organ Transplant Therapy

Some developed countries such as Turkey, Thailand, and India are the most popular destinations for organ transplantation. The reason behind this is clear-cut: low cost, technical proficiency, and first-rate service.


Turkey invests heavily in the medical sector and makes every effort to improve its service quality to boost the potential of transplantation tourism. Today, Turkey rises as a key organ transplantation hub and draws many foreigners due to the low prices.


India is emerging as one of the most preferred transplantation tourism destinations due to flexible laws and regulations, low costs, and easy availability of donors. All these are the primary factors which attract tourists from all over the world to India. Liver transplant cost in the US is around $300,000 whereas in India it is around $20,000. In Mexico, it costs $47,000. That’s why India is the most popular destination for liver transplant treatment.


Thailand is a leading organ transplant destination preferred by patients. The reason is that it has specialist doctors, cheap costs, and an efficient organ donation system. 

Legal and Ethical Issues in the Transplant Sector

Organ trade, commercial sales of organs, came into being because of an imbalance between organ demand and organ donation. Today, the number of organs available for transplantation are very low in comparison to the demand.

Doctor performing surgery; image by Pixabay, via
Doctor performing surgery; image by Pixabay, via

That’s why commercial sales of organs and organ trafficking have risen and are raising questions about the morals and legitimacy of transplantation. This commercial sale of an organ is attracting medical tourists due to the decreasing number of donors and has led to discrimination in the allocation of organs between the wealthy and the poor.

Future Growth

With various emerging alternatives to deal with the ethical and legal aspects, considerable growth can be expected in the sector of organ transplantation in medical tourism.

  • Presumed Approval

Obtaining organs with the process of presumed consent is a widely used strategy by many European countries to raise organ donations. In this, if a living person has specifically requested not to donate his/her organs then only they are not used for transplantation. Otherwise, organs of dead people are presumed to be utilizable for organ donations and transplantations.

  • Financial Help

By offering financial help and assistance to the families of donors, or by giving appreciation and gratitude to donors, countries can encourage organ donation. Even the various national governments around the world are adopting it to gather more organs.

  • Improvements and Advancements

Today, there are many improvements and advancements in organ transplantation, such as stem cell and transplantation of animal and artificial organs. These techniques are widely adopted by countries as a way to increase organ transplantation.

  • Boost to Tourism

Nowadays, air travel is becoming easier, quicker, and cheaper and that’s another reason why patients have a preference to travel to other countries for organ transplantation. In developed countries like Pakistan, India, Thailand, and Turkey, organ transplantation is inexpensive and they have the best practitioners who can guarantee top-quality treatment to their patients. 

Signing Off

With advanced technology, cut-throat pricing and superior infrastructure, developed counties like India, Turkey, and Thailand are emerging as the fastest growing transplantation tourism hubs worldwide. Transplantation tourism and its advantages are too many to count. It allows people to save a valuable fortune by not spending too much on quality healthcare. It helps patient in receiving the top-quality treatment in a foreign land with a fraction of a cost. It also offers an opportunity for the other country’s monetary recovery and growth. So, ultimately it is a win-win situation to all.

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