With Ethics Absent, Organs Pillaged in China
Last March, China’s vice minister of health Huang Jiefu announced that transplanting of organs from executed prisoners would be phased out in three to five years. Huang said prisoners’ infection rates are often high, according to the BBC account of the briefing.
The vice-minister of health said nothing about the ethics of using prisoners as donors of organs as a reason for changing policy. The reason he did not is that medical ethics as practiced internationally is absent in communist China, according to a new book, State Organs: Transplant Abuse in China.
State Organs has 12 contributors, from four continents, five are medical doctors and one is a medical ethicist.
Another contributor, Ethan Gutmann, has conducted extensive research into China’s Re-education Through Labor (RTL) system and in-depth interviews of over 100 former detainees.
Gutmann notes that Huang’s announcement made no mention of political or religious prisoners of conscience, and the Western, free press did not supply the omission. Huang’s announcement also failed to note that the surgery is indisputably carried out while the donors are still alive, according to Gutmann.
Gutmann believes Bejing’s shift in policy was driven by fear and not concern over exploiting the death of criminals. Behind the announcement is a “sense of dread at the prospect that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s historical crime will be laid bare before the world—and worse, before the Chinese people.”
State Organs seeks to provide the known facts of the crimes and their ethical context to bring an end to what co-editor and contributor David Matas once called a new form of evil on this planet. Five of the entries were written by doctors appalled at the conduct of their Chinese counterparts.
Matas’s co-editor is Torsten Trey, M.D., who is also a contributor. Trey made contact with many doctors around the world who want to bring an end to this unethical practice. Trey is executive director of Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH), which he founded in 2006.
China is second to only the United States in the number of organ transplants. On several other occasions Huang has claimed that as many as 95 percent of transplanted organs in China used executed prisoners as the organ source.
The claim that executed prisoners are the main source of the organs in China is insufficient to explain the organ sourcing, according to the analysis of several contributors in the book.
The main source cannot be the Chinese people because of a cultural aversion to donating body organs.
The first investigators to tackle this question of sourcing were Canadians David Kilgour and David Matas. Kilgour, who contributes to State Organs, was formerly a member of the Canadian Parliament and Canadian secretary of state (Asia-Pacific). Matas is an award-winning international human rights lawyer.
Kilgour and Matas authored a report in July, 2006, revised Jan. 2007, and published as the book Bloody Harvest in 2010, that carefully examined the official transplant numbers and other evidence.
The challenge for Kilgour and Matas in investigating the source of the organs is that the regime publishes numbers of organ transplants but not the number of executions, which the regime says is the primary source of organs. That number is a state secret.
The volume of transplants went up dramatically after 2000 which coincides with the detentions of Falun Gong practitioners, “yet there were no signs that the number of persons sentenced to death and then executed did actually increase,” writes Kilgour (with Jan Harvey).”The recorded number of organ transplants far exceeded the sum total of voluntary organ donation and all death penalty prisoners in China each year,” Kilgour (with Harvey) concludes in State Organs.
Kilgour often says in his public appearances that there are 52 verifiable pieces of evidence that demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that live organ harvesting occurred and is occurring, and that the bulk of the organs derive from Falun Gong practitioners. Trey estimates there are 10,000 to 20,000 transplants annually in China. Not all the executed prisoners would be eligible for organ donation: blood type, tissue match, state of organs, and age. In order to have enough suitable organs on hand at any one time, many more than 10,000 to 20,000 prisoners would have to be in the organ pool to make possible that number of transplantations.
The inevitable conclusion reached by Trey, Kilgour, and Matas is that there must be another group of organ donors, who are standing by as a living source of organs to be harvested when needed.
Gutmann’s research found that organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners started in the latter half of 2000. Not until autumn 2002 did harvesting occur on a “mass scale.” Adding to the pool are an unknown number Tibetans, Uyghurs, and Eastern Lightning House Church Christians.
But these groups were not detained in the same numbers as Falun Gong practitioners who “remain the most plausible source for the bulk of transplants in China,” says Matas.