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Let’s wave goodbye to “transplant tourism”

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 12 June 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:1377
  1. Leigh Turner, associate professor, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal
  1. leigh.turner{at}

“Transplant tourism” is a phrase to which we should say goodbye. True, the term has an alliterative ring. And yes, travel is involved when someone journeys to Pakistan or the Philippines to receive a transplant. Nevertheless, “transplant” and “tourism” are two words that do not belong together.

The phrase is used not only by newspapers, magazines, films, and television programmes but also by prestigious academic journals and scholarly conferences. Several major transplant associations have policies on transplant tourism.

“Transplant tourism” is sometimes used as casually as “ecotourism” or “heritage tourism.” In other instances commentators write “so called transplant tourism” or place the phrase in quotation marks. They are right to sense that the words mislead.

The Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines “tourist” as “a person making a visit or tour as a holiday” and “a person traveling for pleasure.” Holidays take many different shapes; we have different views concerning what constitutes pleasure, relaxation, or adventure. There are backpacker tourists, hobby tourists, music tourists, garden tourists, gourmet tourists, and …

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