The black market in human organs for transplantation is one of the worst ongoing human rights abuses in the world today. But here’s the problem: Many decry organ trafficking, but few do anything about it.
- “obtains an organ to be transplanted into their body or into the body of another person, knowing that the person from whom it was removed ... did not give informed consent;
- “facilitates the removal of an organ from the body of another person” without consent; and/or,
- “obtains or participates in or facilitates the obtaining of an organ from the body of another person ... knowing that it was obtained for consideration,” that is, buying organs.
Organ traffickers operate all over the world. In 2011, the government of Bangladesh busted a kidney-trafficking gang, as described by The Herald Sun, in an especially impoverished village; there were 200 victims—people who sold a kidney for as little as $1,900.
In fact, organ tourism became such an acute problem that Pakistan outlawed all organ buying and live-organ donations (other than to close family members). For the same reason, the Philippines legally prohibited noncitizens from undergoing kidney transplant surgeries in the country.
That’s bad, but nothing compares to the carnage in the People’s Republic of China, where prisoners of conscience are killed and harvested for the black organ market. Human rights campaigner David Matas and former Canadian Member of Parliament David Kilgour have spent years pursuing stories of organ butchery in China against Falun Gong and other prisoners of conscience.
From Ethan Gutmann’s “Bloody Harvest—the Slaughter”: “Falun Gong prisoners, who later got out of China, testified that they were systematically blood-tested and organ-examined while in forced-labor camps across the country. This could not have been for their health since they were regularly tortured, but it is necessary for organ transplants and for building a bank of live ‘donors.’ In a few cases, family members of Falun Gong practitioners were able to see mutilated corpses of their loved ones between death and cremation. Organs had been removed.”
China has repeatedly denied the charges while at the same time promised reforms. But the beat goes on. A 2017 article published in BMC Medical Ethics stated: “The unethical practice of organ procurement from executed prisoners in China has lasted for decades. Moreover, this practice is associated with large-scale abuse and severe human rights violations.”
This is shocking and intolerable. How to stop it? Governments around the world need to follow Canada’s lead. That may finally be happening.
- National legislation to prohibit citizens from receiving illegal organs in any country, as Canada appears on the verge of doing;
- Prohibiting reimbursement of transplants performed anywhere around the globe involving illegal practices; and
- Denial of entry visas to individuals who have engaged in illegal organ procurement in any country, in any capacity.
But laws can only do so much. In the end, it is up to each of us to oppose such bloody exploitation. For example, if we learn that an ill friend or loved one is considering entering the organ black market, promise to support and love them in their distress, but let them know they will be shunned if they take unethical shortcuts.
More importantly, if we face such a health crisis ourselves, we should strive to find the courage and integrity to wait our turn for an ethically donated organ. After all, some things are worse than dying. Committing the profound human rights crime of transplant tourism is one of them.