2014 Italian Society of Organ Transplantation National Congress in Siena

Italian Society of Organ Transplantation National Congress in Siena, Italy


Siena, Italy was the seat of the 2014 National Congress of the Italian Society of Organ Transplantation (SITO) in September. The University Hospital of Siena has performed about 1,200 transplants since the inception of its transplant program. During the Congress in Siena, Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting discussed the crisis of forced organ harvesting in China with the transplant doctors in attendance.

Although many Italian doctors were aware of the use of executed prisoners for transplant organs, they were surprised to learn that most of the organs come from prisoners of conscience — Uyghurs, Christians, Tibetans and Falun Gong practitioners. A small number of doctors had participated in international conferences in Boston, Sydney, Berlin and San Francisco, where they were informed about forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners.

During the National Congress of SITO in Siena, many doctors signed the DAFOH petition to the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights. They asked questions about Western patients who travel to China for transplants and also wanted to know more about the Chinese health care system. One attendee was told by a Chinese doctor that China no longer use organs from executed prisoners, however that does not match the data.

Another doctor said that her Chinese patient undergoing dialysis went to China and returned to Italy after two weeks with a kidney transplant. Although this doctor had doubts about the origin of the organ, she provided care and assistance to the patient without obtaining more information. She was not required to report the case to the national transplant center, as this regulation in their dialysis center does not exist.

One suggestion from a doctor at the SITO Congress was to create a national Italian petition signed by doctors who can influence the Italian government to put pressure on the Chinese government to stop the removal of organs from prisoners.

Many doctors said that they will distribute the information about forced organ harvesting in China to their patients and among colleagues. A medical professor at the University Hospital of Siena shared the information he obtained from the DAFOH booth at the congress with his students the next day, to educate them about this unethical practice.