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Organ Harvesting in China: More Evidence, More Protest

Revelations that live prisoners of conscience are being harvested for their organs come hot on the heels of calls by world medical bodies, to snub the Chinese Medical Association.

By Ruth Ingram

Image: Enacting a live organ harvesting surgery at a Falun Gong protest in Prague. Credits.

Disturbing evidence brought to light this month by a seminal Australian National University (ANU) report that doctors were required to become executioners in the opaque underworld of so-called “organ tourism” has added more fuel to long held suspicions by world medical bodies, that China is flagrantly breaking every ethical rule in the book and shows no sign of stopping.

Not only are death row captives targets, but so are tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetans, underground Christians, and most recently millions of largely Muslim Uyghurs and Turkic peoples whose DNA and biometrics, farmed during the crackdowns and internments of the past five years, now forms a comprehensive data base for hospitals to draw on should the need arise.

The sick and the dying travel to China in their thousands for the promise of new life; among them, claim witnesses, Muslims from the Arab world insisting on halal organs. Their benefactors however are not voluntary. The very gift that promises new life to the tourists, is the means by which the Uyghur prisoners will die, at the hands of a surgeon who has become his executioner.

“Alarmed” and “deeply troubled” by the growing body of proof that the clandestine trade in organs has not stopped as promised by the Chinese government in 2015, both the British Medical Association and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges have spoken out, following demands from a raft of eminent medical groups and individuals around the world to take decisive action.

The ANU study published in the American Journal of Transplantation examined tens of thousands of medical reports of heart and lung transplant surgeries available on Chinese hospital websites over the past 35 years, and found 71 where the requisite “brain death” had not been established. The donors were all very much alive as their vital organs were excised from their bodies.

By scrutinizing the reported clinical procedures of intubation and ventilation of donors, declaration of brain death, and commencement of organ procurement surgery, the new evidence provides more smoking guns for a practice, which is denied by China and by its very nature is hard to prove, not least because all its victims are no longer alive.

But for those willing to turn a blind eye or who are simply too sick to care about the source of their replacement heart, liver, kidneys or lungs, waiting times can be as short as two weeks compared with years of delay in their home countries. In the PRC major organ procurement is just a click away.

Following the December 2021 judgement of the Uyghur Tribunal in London, set up to investigate “ongoing atrocities and possible genocide” against the Uyghur, Kazakh, and other Turkic Muslim populations in the People’s Republic of China, Zoe Greaves, chair of the British Medical Association ethics committee called on health care professionals globally to “engage without delay.” She and her two co-authors writing in the “British Medical Journal” in January 2022 described the abuses as “among the worst violations of international medical codes and standards since they were set out after the second world war.”

They urged healthcare professionals to individually and collectively lobby political representatives to demand “a thorough, impartial, independent investigation appointed by a credible international organisation.”

Since a core objective of the World Medical Association is “to establish and promote the highest standards of care and behaviour by physicians,” they urgently questioned whether the Chinese Medical Association could remain a member.

Professors David Curtis and Thomas G. Schulze, members of the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC), called in February this year for medical practitioners and scientists to stop collaborating with doctors and scientists in China altogether. “Until such time as Chinese medical and scientific institutions take robust action to prevent these practices from occurring, we cannot continue to regard doctors and scientists in China as our professional colleagues,” they said. They invited others to join them in committing not to engage in collaborative projects, not to submit applications for joint funding, not to attend conferences in China and not to support the publication of research carried out in China by providing peer review for submitted manuscripts.

Searching for a reason for these barbaric practices, an author of the ANU report Matthew Robertson concluded the driving force was greed. “These surgeries are highly profitable for the doctors and hospitals that engage in them,” he said. ”This abhorrent conduct is a grievous violation of medical ethics, human rights and basic human dignity. Killing for parts cannot be accepted as a part of the field of transplantation by governments, NGOs, health care providers, scientific journals or the general public,” he said. “The evidence is plain and I hope the requisite action will follow.”

His co-author, Jacob Lavee, the son of a Holocaust survivor and a transplant surgeon himself, could not understand how fellow physicians could bring themselves to take part in such “atrocities.” ”I hope that our findings will resonate around the world and help bring these practices to a complete halt,” he said.


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