TORONTO—"This is a Holocaust, no question about it," Toronto-based family doctor Gerry Koffman told an audience gathered in the University of Toronto's Medical Science Building on Thursday.
Dr. Koffman is the Canadian co-ordinator for Doctors Against Organ Harvesting, a U.S.-based group of medical doctors that is warning the public and the medical community that there are serious ethical implications in receiving organ transplants in China.
Thursday's forum discussed recent reports of widespread forced organ removal from living prisoners of conscience in that country.
Based on its own independent investigations and a report by Canadians David Kilgour and David Matas, Doctors Against Organ Harvesting is confident that the allegations of organ harvesting from unwilling prisoners of conscience, particularly Falun Gong practitioners, in Chinese hospitals are true.
Doctors Taking Action to End Organ Harvesting
Dr. Treston Trey, the founding member and spokesperson of the organization emphasized the importance of its mission and stated that even though this practice is taking place in China, it nevertheless affects the whole world, especially the medical profession.
"This is a threat to the ethical standards in medicine worldwide. We don't see this as an isolated issue."
"Each recipient going to China asking for an organ is causing the death of a healthy, living person," Dr. Trey said.
That is why his organization is issuing an urgent call to action to the medical community to inform patients who are considering China for an organ transplant of the implications of their actions.
It is also sending a petition to the Canadian government to add this information about organ harvesting to the travel advisory for Canadians going abroad to China. The petition already contains more than 100 signatures from Canadian physicians.
According to various independent investigations, the large number of unaccounted organs in China and the short waiting times advertised by Chinese hospitals (one or two weeks for some organs) are of particular concern.
In their report "Bloody Harvest," David Matas and David Kilgour state that between the year 2000 and 2005, out of 60 000 organs transplanted in China, 41,500 organs came from unexplained sources. (Please read the entire Kilgour-Matas report on organ harvesting in China. )
While the Chinese communist regime admitted in 2005 that 95 per cent of these organs came from executed prisoners, according to the report by Matas and Kilgour, this still leaves 41,500 transplants unaccounted for.
Dr. Trey stressed that the exponential increase in organ transplants in China began in 1999, the same time the Chinese regime first launched its massive crackdown on Falun Gong. According to his data, the number of centres conducting liver transplants rose from 22 in 1999 to over 200 by 2006.
He went on to add that the large numbers of unaccounted organs are especially remarkable since China is a society that is traditionally reluctant to donate organs, and does not have a transparent organ donation program. Kilgour and Matas also emphasized this in their report.
The situation in China is that donors are waiting in line for a recipient, said Dr. Trey, adding that there must be a pool of living donors. He mentioned an ad found in April 2006, published in a Chinese newspaper, advertising: "Twenty organ transplants free of charge" at the Hunan Provincial People's Hospital, for which people could register by calling the hospital's hotline.
Following the Money
Organ transplants are a lucrative business in China, with prices ranging between $USD 30,000 and $USD 180,000 for an organ. According to the data collected by the organization, these prices were available on the China International Transplantation Network Assistance Center website, but have since been removed.
That Falun Gong practitioners are the principal victims of this organ-harvesting seemed to be unanimous agreement between the speakers at the forum on Thursday, which also included Kilgour and Asia scholar Erping Zhang.
Based on accounts by various witnesses and prisoners, Falun Gong practitioners are being singled out for systematic blood-testing in detention centres, said Dr. Trey. It makes no sense that a group who is persecuted and tortured would be tested for their health, he added.
Ms. Ying Dai, a Falun Gong practitioner who survived Chinese labour camps and now lives in Norway after being granted refugee status by the UN, confirmed the blood testing of Falun Gong practitioners. She also told of the persecution she endured in China together with other practitioners.
"For five years, I was arrested, I was incarcerated. We were severely beaten. But we were no animals and we committed no crime."
"The degree of persecution is beyond what people in the West can imagine", she told the audience.
Mr. Erping Zhang, the director for the Association for Asian Research, a New York-based organization, presented an overview of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice that includes meditation, and of its persecution by the Chinese communist regime.
The practice, first made public in China in 1992, was originally endorsed by the government for its ability to improve health and morale, but it fell out of favour after the officially atheist regime found it had attracted more adherents than there were members in the Chinese Communist Party.
Zhang emphasized that Falun Gong practitioners have been vilified by the Chinese media, which are under the control of the ruling communist party in China. The media have treated Falun Gong worse than criminals, Zhang said, and this has helped substantiate the persecution.
David Kilgour, former Canadian secretary of state for Asia and the Pacific, said that he and David Matas have met Falun Gong practitioners in over 32 countries in their mission to raise awareness about the organ harvesting. "The one thing you know about Falun Gong practitioners is that they're completely opposed to violence," he added.
Dr. Koffman, the moderator at the forum first became involved in Doctors Against Organ Harvesting after reading about the allegations about organ-harvesting in China in The Epoch Times and then pursuing his own independent investigation.
He stressed that this organization, which was officially launched on January 31, 2007 is a supporter of organ transplants, and that it is important for people to understand the difference organ transplants from consenting donors and the organ harvesting from unwilling prisoners of conscience, who are systematically killed for their organs.
Since the initial release of the report by David Matas and David Kilgour in 2006, the issue of organ-harvesting in China has gradually been getting more attention in the medical community. A March article published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine compared this organ harvesting in China to the Holocaust in Nazi Germany and stressed the impact this has on the ethics in the medical community.
"The killing of Nazi Germany shows that nothing is impossible when a totalitarian system loses ethics," said Dr. Trey who was born in Germany.