Global Bioethics Initiative held the forum “Crimes of 21st Century: Organ Trafficking, Global Health and Security” on February 14, 2013 in New York City
Among the speakers was Ashok Vaseashta, director of the Institute for Advanced Sciences Convergence USA and a contractor for the U.S. State Department. He stated that organ trafficking violates fundamental human rights, yet the violations are not taken enough to public awareness, and authorities that are in the position to act are not serious enough in their actions. According to Vaseashta an estimated US$50 billion is collected annually by organ traffickers around the world. The number is based on a composite of data extrapolated from various signals, such as phone calls and email communication. Because the crimes are illicit, collecting data is a challenge, but still necessary, Vaseashta explained.
According to Debra Budiani-Saberi, medical anthropologist and Executive Director for Organ-Failure Solutions, the organ trafficking can happen in various ways. Individuals in vulnerable situations, such as refugees or prisoners, may be forced into indebtedness and then offered an “opportunity to donate an organ” to repay the debt. Budiani-Saberi added that other donors may be offered payment for organs, an exploitative practice that is banned in almost every country in the world due to obvious ethics concerns and the potential for abuse.
Arthur Caplan, professor and head of the Division of Bioethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, stated that in China, a global center for organ transplantations and transplant tourism, organs are obtained from its prison and labor camp systems. Donors include convicted criminals, as well as political dissidents, Tibetans, and practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual practice. The Chinese regime claims that its source of organs comes from executed prisoners, but the official explanation falls short in explaining the extensive number of transplantations performed in China every year. “There is no way that you are going to get the numbers of transplants done in China unless you execute someone on demand”, Caplan said. “What is happening is that the Chinese are executing on demand to get organ parts.” Caplan stated that the U.S. State Department could do more because China is sensitive to pressure because it wants to enter into the international community. The Chinese need to understand that “they need to get on board with minimum standards,” he added.
In the book Bloody Harvest, the co-authors Matas and Kilgour reported about one organ recipient who recalled two separate trips to a Chinese military hospital in Shanghai where he was presented with eight kidneys before a match could be found. The man recounted that the military doctor, Mr. Tan, had a clipboard with a list that he checked before returning with new kidneys after a period of three hours.