Speaking at a launch event for his latest book State Organs, Nobel Peace Prize nominee David Matas says the world’s governments have a responsibility to end the illegal practice of forced organ harvesting in China.
Mr Matas gave an address before NSW State Parliament members on Nov 13. Mr Matas, a renowned human rights lawyer from Canada, is one of the leading researchers into the transplant abuse issue, which he described as the greatest form of evil the world has seen in recent times.
“There are many things globally we can do. We must do what we can within our own jurisdictions to limit complicity in the matter,” said Mr Matas in his address.
State Organs is a collection of essays from leading transplant surgeons, medical professionals and academics. The new book follows Mr Matas’s original report into organ harvesting in 2006 and his book Bloody Harvest in 2009.
Jamie Parker, Greens Member for the NSW Legislative Assembly, has tabled over 10,000 petitions in NSW State Parliament, urging the government to help stop illegal organ harvesting in China. The petition also calls on the NSW Government to ban training for Chinese transplant doctors. A parliamentary debate on the issue will be held in February 2013.
Mr Parker cited two major hospitals in Queensland that halted training programmes for Chinese doctors in 2006, and said the NSW Government should do the same.
“Queensland has a very strong policy on this matter … As citizens of NSW we want to see [Chinese transplant] doctors not trained here,” Mr Parker said.
Mr Parker says the issue of organ trade in China can affect Australians who travel there for quick transplant operations, a practice known as transplant tourism.
China is the second largest transplant centre in the world, after the United States. An article posted on Health Paper Net in March 2006 suggests there were 90,000 transplant operations performed between 1995 to 2005. In Australia only 900 transplants are performed annually, according to DonateLife website.
In State Organs Mr Matas cites evidence that in 2004 at least 10,000 living donations took place in China. The figure was taken from a presentation by Huang Jiefu, the vice minister of health, given in March 2010 in Madrid.
‘Living donations’ is a term for the removal of an organ from a live victim who is not brain dead. Organs taken from live sources cause minimal tissue rejection in the recipient, says Mr Matas.
Meanwhile, China does not have a formal organ donation system, as culturally Chinese do not believe in tampering with the deceased.
“So where do these organs come from?” Mr Matas asked.
He describes organ harvesting in China as a barbaric murder-on-demand process. The majority of organs are extracted from prisoners, without consent from the individuals or their families.
He describes organ harvesting in China as a barbaric murder-on-demand process. The majority of organs are extracted from prisoners, without consent from the individuals or their families. A pre-selected prisoner would be killed based on matching blood type for the receipient on a set date.
Falun Gong the Main Target
Mr Matas’s research also suggests that over 90 per cent of all transplants in China come from Falun Gong prisoners of conscience. Mr Matas provides data that shows a sharp spike in transplant operations after 1999, the year the persecution of Falun Gong began.
Falun Gong, an ancient spiritual practice of exercises and Buddhist-Daoist philosophy, has been the target of state persecution since 1999. Amnesty International estimates there are tens of thousands of Falun Gong detainees in labour camps and prisons across China.
According to official numbers from China, only 78 liver transplant operations took place over the 7 years between 1991 and 1998. But in 1999, 118 surgeries took place, with the number increasing to over 3000 operations in 2003 alone, according to an article from Oriental Organ Transplantation Center Net, dated Nov 5, 2004.
Direct phone calls to hospitals in China by Mr Matas’s investigative team have revealed that it can take only one week to get an organ in China, including one specifically requested to come from a Falun Gong practitioner. In Australia the waiting period is at least two years.
“Getting a transplant in days or weeks means that people are being killed for their organs,” said Mr Matas.
Pharmaceutical Companies Implicated
Maria Fiatarone Singh is a Sydney University professor of Medicine and contributor to State Organs. In her address at parliament, Dr Singh urged greater responsibility from the medical profession and pharmaceutical companies.
The vast volume of transplant surgeries in China have allowed pharmaceutical companies to conduct large clinical drug trials, used to prevent organ rejection.
Getting a transplant in days or weeks means that people are being killed for their organs.
In 2010 the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche was slammed for supporting China’s unethical transplantation practices. It received two “shame” prizes at the Public Eye Awards in Davos for conducting research on transplant patients in China without knowing the origin of the organs donated.
However, other companies like Novartis have issued statements that they are stopping all trials in China, following the publication of Mr Matas’s research in 2006.
Signs of Change
Mr Matas speaks proudly of signs that change is happening. Organ harvesting was mentioned for the first time in the 2012 US human rights report. The US immigration policies have also implemented a compulsory question, whereby anyone entering the country must state if they have participated in transplant organ abuse.
In Belgium and Canada legislation has been passed to penalise transplant tourism—the popular practice of travelling to developing countries to obtain quick organs.
Another breakthrough was in Israel, says Mr Matas.
“Health insurance paid for transplant surgery in China. After our report came out, Israel cancelled this insurance,” Mr Matas said.
In September this year a US congressional hearing was held in Washington, DC, resulting in 106 congressman signing a letter urging President Barack Obama to release further information on organ harvesting.
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