Global Rights Compliance Calls for Disengagement with Chinese Transplant Professionals

Global Rights Compliance (GRC) is an international human rights law and development NGO founded in 2013 and based in The Hague. Its core purpose is “to achieve justice through the innovative application of international law.”

In April 2022, it published a Legal Advisory Report on global forced organ harvesting and organ trafficking that detailed the evidence of these crimes against humanity, described what constitutes complicity with these atrocities, and explained the responsibility of the business and medical communities is to abide by human rights and ethical principles.

The report, titled “Do No Harm: Mitigating Human Rights Risks When Interacting with International Medical Professionals and Institutions in Transplantation Medicine,” concluded that “Unethical organ transplantation is a global phenomenon that is rising as global demand for organs exceeds availability. The practice of removing organs from living or deceased persons without their voluntary, free and informed consent may constitute individual criminal activity, as part of organ-trafficking crimes, or under state-sanctioned regimes as part of widespread or systematic persecutory conduct. Medical entities and transplant professionals are at risk of prosecution to the extent that they are complicit in these crimes.”

The BL wrote that the GRC report identified countries with “record high levels of organ trafficking and unethical organ transplantation, such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Lebanon and Egypt—and particularly China, where a state-sanctioned organ harvesting industry reach a market value of $1bn a year.” In a video conference, British lawyer Wayne Jordash QC, managing partner at GRC, said the report “explored the possible risks of working with Chinese medical professionals, including hospitals, universities, medical journals, and Chinese medical schools, among others, as it might constitute an act of complicity in this crime” and that “the most significant risk to the transplant industry [is] the crime of forced organ harvesting in China, wherein people are killed for their organs. Within four years since the early 2000s, China’s organ transplant technology has gone from a being follower to a leader in the industry.”

The Law Society Gazette explained how the GRC’s report is the first to address “the role of Western medical professionals and institutions in unethical organ transplantation, organ trafficking, and forced organ harvesting” by stating that “entering and/or maintaining relationships with Chinese institutions entails the highest risk of complicity in international crimes.”

Despite the plethora of evidence that China is harvesting organs from innocent prisoners of conscience, medical professions around the world “are still actively collaborating with China in transplant medicine, research, training and funding, or considering future collaborations.”

Jordash was quoted as saying, “Unfortunately, the transplantation community can be complicit in unethical organ transplantation practices, often unknowingly. The medical community must join in the global effort to stamp out all types of unethical organ sourcing. Together, this trade in human misery must be stopped.”

In its article “UK companies ‘risk legal action’ if they are linked to forced organ trade in China” quoted Jordash saying, “institutions need to improve their due diligence to avoid the possibility of them inadvertently helping a state sponsored system of removing people’s organs without their consent, in some cases even while they are still alive. Organizations such as medical journals, universities, hospitals, and companies selling medical products all need to be even more stringent in examining their supply chains, who they work with, and what they endorse.”

In an opinion piece for the Tablet, Martin Elliott, Emeritus Professor of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery at University College London, wrote that the “evidence implies that in China, skilled people, almost certainly medically trained, took blood samples, analyzed those samples, examined prisoners, and removed and implanted organs without either explicit or implicit consent. I still struggle to understand how they could do this, although some evidence we heard reminded us that many of the doctors themselves had reason to fear personal retribution or threats to their families.”

Elliott went on to say, “As Global Rights Compliance has proposed, it is vital that organizations—academic, medical, and business—that work with equivalent Chinese (or other nations’) institutions do three things: First, establish a human rights commitment to prevent involvement in unethical practice (including transplantation); second, conduct human rights due diligence processes to identify, prevent, mitigate, and account for unethical medical or transplantation risks; and third, disengage from any relationship where such unethical organ transplantation is not preventable, mitigatable, or remediable.”

In an interview with NTD, Dr. Martin Elliott praised GRC for creating guidelines for transplant ethics, saying we need to “get our own act in order” and cannot allow “trade to trump human rights” as “too many people in China have suffered as a result.” He concluded that it is “time to be tough now.”