DAFOH was founded with the mission to “provide the medical community and society with objective findings of unethical and illegal organ harvesting.” For the past 16 years, DAFOH has focused on the subject of forced organ harvesting from living people, primarily prisoners of conscience in China, particularly Falun Gong practitioners who are subjected to an unlawful persecution for their spiritual belief and have been recognized as the largest organ source in the country. This point was firmly established by the China Tribunal in 2019.
In the process of raising awareness about these crimes against humanity, it is impossible to omit discussion or stay silent on ethical principles in medicine, as forced organ harvesting is a blatant violation of medical ethics. Part of DAFOH’s mission is to “respect the dignity of human beings and promote the highest ethical standards in medicine” and DAFOH has strived to facilitate an ongoing discourse on medical ethics.
With the onset of the pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2, there have been unprecedented developments in the medical field. In March 2020, two transplant teams in China competed emergency double-lung transplants for COVID patients after identifying and procuring matching lungs within a span of hours to 2-3 days. This was surprising for several reasons. It usually takes 2-3 months for lungs to be available for donation and the fastest reported in the United States was about 14 days. It is surprising then that, not only one, but several lung transplants took place in March 2020, in China where the organ donation rate is far smaller than in the United States.
Not only were organs procured in record time, but the lung transplants were performed on unvaccinated COVID positive recipients, as vaccinations against the virus were not publicly available at the time.
Fast forward two years to 2022 when several cases were reported where patients who were eligible to receive a transplant were denied the operation because they preferred not to be vaccinated with the mRNA vaccine. While there are good arguments that support proceeding in this way —no vaccine, no transplant— we have observed that the decision-making process to require COVID vaccination for transplantation did not allow for an open and transparent scientific discussion. Rather than denying a treatment option, one could have informed the patients of the risks of not being vaccinated when immunosuppressed while at the same time offering them the “right to try.” These patients could then have been entered into a control group for a clinical trial. Such a control group would have helped to establish evidence-based data. Given that both the vector and mRNA-based vaccines and their long-term effects are relatively unknown, a control group would have been justified in order to verify if any of the vaccines improve long-term survival after transplantation.
As medical professionals who are dedicated to ending forced organ harvesting from living people, we have two responsibilities: to speak as advocates against forced organ harvesting and to speak as medical professionals concerned with ethics. At DAFOH, we wish to provide the space to do both, to focus on advocacy against forced organ harvesting while at the same time participating in discourse on medical ethics. We are convinced that an open and transparent scientific discussion about ethics in medicine is the foundation for good medical practice.
For these reasons, the DAFOH newsletter team is launching a new section in our newsletter that will allow for more discussion and debate on ethical principles in medicine. We are pleased to present “Ethics Corner” in this first newsletter of 2022.
Torsten Trey, MD, PhD
Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting