“We’ll not be accomplices to this!” — Italian Senate passes bill to
confront organ harvesting and collusion head on
On March 4, 2015, the Italian Senate unanimously passed a bill that punishes any person who illegally sell organs from living people with severe sanctions and stiff prison terms.
The profits from the sale of black market organs for transplantation bring in profits of $600 to $1.2 billion USD annually, according to the Washington based non-profit, research and advocacy group Global Financial Integrity. GFI conducts research on national and multilateral policies, safeguards, and agreements aimed at stemming illicit and unethical financial flows globally.
And, while the main exporters of illegal organ sales are considered to be India and Pakistan, China stands out for brutality and orchestrating a unique and sophisticated organization of high profit murderous forced organ harvesting with military involvement.
“Talking about the number of organ transplants, China is second only to the United States,” said Italian Senator Maurizio Romani, who proposed the bill. But, Chinese law does not allow collection of organs from people who are brain dead after an incident. Romani explains, “A national system of donation doesn’t exist in China.”
Senator Maurizio Romani in the Italian Senate (photo credit: Agenparl)
The central question challenging the Senate was this: Where do China’s 10,000 transplanted organs a year come from? “The answer is dramatic,” said Romani. In China, the safety of prisoners of conscience is now critical. “Especially practitioners of the spiritual discipline Falun Gong are killed for their organs. I use the term cannibalism for this matter,” said Romani.
“We in Italy can’t stop these violations,” the Senator said, “But, we have the duty to make every effort in order not to be accomplices to this.”
Confronting unethical and illegal organ harvesting is not new in Italy. In September 2014, Pope Francis met with members of the world medical transplant leadership, The Transplantation Society, on behalf of the transplant ethics watchdog group Declaration of Istanbul Custody Group, together with the mayor of Rome to support ethical organ procurement worldwide. Investigators report that Christians and Catholics are also persecuted for their beliefs as prisoners of conscience in China and may be subjected to forced organ harvesting.
According to the new bill, every person who trades, sells or manages illegally trafficked organs from living persons would serve a prison term of 3 to 12 years and pay a hefty fine from 50.000 to 300.000 euros. The bill punishes whoever publicity encourages or advertises the selling of organs, or presents propaganda and announcements to encourage transplant tourism to China. Doctors who promote or assist patients to travel to illegally obtain an organ would face lifetime disbarment for violating medical ethics.
During the discussion of the bill, members of many political parties in Italy, both in the government, and in the opposition parties, shared their views. In reference to the body of evidence against the practice in China. Senatress Ivana Simeoni said “There are documents which dispel any doubt,” about the truthfulness and validity of what investigators think is in reality actually happening in China. “Only to think about this commoditization of the human body makes me shiver,” said Simeoni.
Senator Sergio Lo Giudice, a leading member of the ruling Democratic Party, and a member of Italy’s Human Rights Commission, followed the course of the bill from inception when international human rights lawyer David Matas spoke to the Commission of the Italian Senate on December 19, 2013.
“From 1999 on, then president of the PRC [Peoples Republic of China], Jiang Zemin, started a violent campaign to eradicate Falun Gong, a very popular traditional spiritual practice, arresting many of the adherents,” Lo Giudice explained. Then, starting in 2006, independent investigators like David Matas, and former Canadian politician David Kilgour, started to inquire about reports of organ harvesting from living victims. Recently, both the United Nations and the European Parliament condemned this as a crime against humanity.
Senator Domenico Scillipoti also cautioned that ISIS could profit from such organ trafficking with China, using it as a source of income to fund its terrorist activities.
The new bill asks that amendments be made to sections of the Italian Penal Code to introduce and escalate punishments against organ trafficking in general. Similar to other bills passed in Israel and New South Wales in Australia, the Italian bill aims to deter their own citizens from traveling to China to receive transplants and discourage doctors from facilitating such arrangements.
Next, the bill will go to the Chamber of Deputies, the other house in Italy’s bicameral Parliament, before it is passed into law.
Bill text in iItalian: