Health Law PhD Graduate Ready for New Challenges

Dr. Terry Adido to publish book on transplant tourism in the summer of 2018

Ben Freeland - 27 December 2017

Dr. Terry Adido is not one to sit on his laurels. The UAlberta Law researcher who formally received his doctorate in November 2017 is already well into the mammoth task of transforming his PhD thesis (completed under the supervision of Prof. Linda Reif) into a book set to be produced by Dutch academic imprint Brill Publications in July 2018.

Further complicating matters is the fact that the legal landscape around his topic area is fast transforming, meaning his existing work already needs updating. In March 2018 the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs will usher in new legislation aimed at curbing so-called "transplant tourism" - travel for the purpose of buying kidneys and other organs, which is part of what is often referred to as the "red market".

For Adido, this new law, onto which 19 European countries have now signed, is an indication that the tide is beginning to turn on this little-understood phenomenon.

"Procuring organs in the black market has been illegal within countries for a long time now, and transplant tourism is banned in all the major destination countries like India, Pakistan and the Philippines - although these laws are not enforced nearly to the degree they need to be. But up to now, with a few exceptions, the source countries for transplant tourism have not stepped in to curb this practice, but this new convention is a clear sign that this is starting to change," he said.

A big part of the problem, Adido contends, is that source countries, unlike destination countries, have had little incentive to crack down on this market. While the long-term cost of illegally obtained transplants to source countries' health care systems in terms of follow-up treatments remains to be seen, transplant tourism has the short-term result of easing the burden on source countries' medical systems.

By contrast, transplant tourism comes at great cost to the health systems in developing countries and exacerbates existing organ shortages for local people while also exploiting the vulnerable people who are drawn into these transactions.

Adido argues that the new European law - and more legislation like it - will definitely take a bite out of the problem, but will not solve it outright.

"You can only provide laws - you can't legislate every single person," he said.

"In addition to international conventions like this, states have to find ways of becoming more self-sufficient when it comes to organ transplantation. Many countries have very low donation rates, either due to cultural taboos or simple lack of awareness, and this means serious organ shortages. It's not like people are waking up one morning and deciding to travel abroad to get a kidney - people are driven to do this because they feel they have no other option."

Adido contends that international organ exchange programs would help alleviate shortages by facilitating legal, regulated organ exchanges between countries. Beyond this, governments need to be far more proactive in encouraging people to become donors, he argues.

"Even here in Canada there's very little public education around this issue," he said.

With a PhD on his wall and a book on the way, Dr. Adido is now on the search for new employment, ideally in the international NGO community where he can continue his advocacy on the issue. As for his other life passion, the former MasterChef Canada contestant says he has no further interest in TV cookery - although his passion for cake artistry remains undiminished.

"As someone who grew up in Nigeria, where I saw poverty and malnutrition all around me, it's not a world I'm comfortable in anymore - with all the food wastage that goes on behind the scenes. I would much rather do work that helps empower impoverished people - and that's what I'm doing now."