Minnesota State Representative Phyllis Kahn (DFL, District 60B) has formally called upon state leaders in Minnesota to conduct an investigation into any foreign sourced organs used in transplantation in the state. Rep. Kahn is particularly concerned about “persistent and credible reports of organ harvesting from convicted prisoners and prisoners of conscience in the People’s Republic of China.”
In an open, bipartisan letter to top commissioners of the state, Rep. Kahn called for immediate action and voiced the concerns of her constituency over unethical organ harvesting and preventing collusion. “We are greatly troubled by the possibility that any of these organs might be used by hospitals or healthcare providers in the state of Minnesota,” she said.
Thirty-four members from both parties of the House of Representatives in Minnesota signed the open letter and have formally called on the state Department of Public Health and the Office of Higher Education to assure ethical voluntary donation of any foreign sourced organ for transplantation. Two state senators also endorsed the letter: Alice Johnson (DFL District 37) and Senator Dan Hall (R-District 56) signed in support just before the senate recess, stating the letter expressed an urgent and important concern.
Rep. Kahn was excited about the open letter saying, “It was signed by representatives from very conservative Republicans to very liberal Democrats in the state.” She cited that her motivation to take action stemmed from discussions she had with citizens over the past several years.
The Chinese government has sanctioned organ harvesting from prisoners and prisoners of conscience in China, selling the organs to transplant tourists for rapid transplants on demand. This has commanded global attention. Investigators estimate the number of prisoners of conscience to be in the millions based on public data about China’s extensive prison and re-education through labor systems. Primarily the Falun Gong, but, also Christians, Tibetans, dissidents and minority groups are believed to be brutally victimized in labor camps and after widespread medical screenings their organs are harvested for wholesale profit. Amnesty International and other human rights watchdogs have called for an end of the persecution of Falun Gong, and the harvesting of organs from prisoners in China.
Concerned citizens in Minnesota have gone to the streets with clipboards to collect signatures in support of a petition requesting the Unites Nations Human Rights Commission take action to stop forced organ harvesting in China. The petition, initiated by the non-profit NGO Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH) garnered 1.5 million signatures within 5 months in 2013 and continues to be promoted by people and governments worldwide.
Rep. Kahn worries that harvested organs could find their way into the state to be used for medical research at the University of Minnesota, or any other publicly-funded medical research institution. “As can be seen, 34 members of the House joined me in signing it. In signing this letter, we are not accusing the Department of Health and Human Services, or the University of Minnesota of malfeasance. We are only asking for investigation and assurance that there is no use of improperly procured and donated organs,” said Rep. Kahn.
China, the second largest producer of solid organ transplants in the world, after the U.S., has over 160 transplant hospitals and has advertised unprecedented one and two week waiting times for kidney, heart and liver transplants.
Due to cultural taboos, China does not have an effective voluntary organ donation system and depends on taking organs from prisoners. In contrast, western countries struggle to promote ethical donation to save lives, and have long waiting lists and costly patient medical care. Doctors around the world have reported that patients have traveled to China for unethical and illegal rapid organ transplants.
Rep. Kahn’s letter concludes that, “While the State of Minnesota can do little to change actions of foreign governments with regards to theft of organs, we can at least take those minimal steps necessary to reassure the public that our supply of human organs is entirely sourced through a safe, totally voluntary, and properly sourced organ donation system.”
Elected in 1972, Rep. Kahn, a graduate of Cornell, Yale, and Harvard universities, is serving her 21st consecutive term in Minnesota and has been an advocate for human rights with a special interest in safe medical practices and organ trafficking in China.