San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Are human organs for sale in Costa Rica?

A story published Monday in the Mexican newspaper El Universal alleges that a private Costa Rican clinic was involved in illegal organ trafficking in 2012.

The story, titled “Transplant tourism in Costa Rica,” details how two Israeli men allegedly paid a Costa Rican and a Nicaraguan $6,000 for kidneys last year, an act that is illegal in Costa Rica. According to the story, the case came to light on April 24 during a meeting sponsored by the International Organization for Migration.

“Costa Rica is known worldwide for its transplant tourism,” Roberto Tanus, president of the Transplant Society of Latin America and the Caribbean, told El Universal. “Everyone knows what we are talking about here. Transplant tourism is an elegant disguise for what is really the illicit trafficking of organs.”

According to the story, 48,000 medical tourists came to Costa Rica for some kind of procedure in 2012, and each person spent an average of $7,000 per visit.

“It’s one thing to go to Costa Rica to get your teeth fixed,” Tanus said at an international symposium in Qatar in April. “It’s another thing to commit a crime. It is a crime for four, five or six [medical tourists] to put the entire industry of medical tourism at risk.”

“We don’t want Costa Rica to be seen as a place where an organ can be purchased,” Public Security Vice Minister Freddy Montero said, according to El Universal. “We cannot back down on this issue.” 

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