Organ thieving is urban myth

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 08 June 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:1442

Media reports of children being murdered to supply organs for transplants are only rumours, according to Veronique Campion-Vincent, a French social scientist who specialises in the study of urban myths. Announcing the findings of a lengthy investigation into organ snatching, she said that there was no evidence that children in the developing world were being dismembered for the benefit of recipients in the West. There were, however, cases of poor people in India and China who had sold their organs.

Ms Campion-Vincent, a member of the French National Centre for Scientific Research, carried out the study at the request of the French organ transplant organisation, responsible for regulating organ transplants. Organ transplants are declining in France because families are increasingly refusing to donate their relatives' organs. The situation is blamed on a highly publicised incident in 1991 when the corneas of a young man killed in an accident were taken without his parents' consent. There was also a television documentary, which was later discredited, featuring the alleged theft of the corneas of a live Columbian child.

Efforts are being made to reverse this trend. Last year nearly 10 000 French general practitioners took part in a campaign to encourage their patients to donate organs after their death.—ALEXANDER DOROZYNSKI, medical journalist, Paris

View Abstract

Sign in

Log in through your institution

Free trial

Register for a free trial to to receive unlimited access to all content on for 14 days.
Sign up for a free trial