On Dec 13, 2013 in Strasbourg, France, the European Parliament (EP) passed a resolution publicly condemning systematic, state-sanctioned organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The resolution calls upon member states and the UN to publicly condemn the practice, immediately release prisoners of conscience and seek immediate legal retribution of those involved.
Parliament specifically underscores that the proposed phase out of the barbaric practice in China is unacceptable and that an immediate cessation is needed to “end immediately the practice of harvesting organs from prisoners of conscience and members of religious and ethnic minority groups” with emphasis on the inclusion of the spiritual practitioners of Falun Gong as the main target. It demands a “full and transparent investigation by the EU into organ transplant practices in China and the prosecution of those involved in such unethical practices.”
The resolution demands that the UN special rapporteurs on torture and on freedom of religion or belief conduct an investigation of the source of organs used in transplantation and that the Chinese government allow the rapporteurs to investigate.
The EU and its member states are directed by the resolution to publicly condemn the transplantation abuses in China and to raise awareness among their citizens traveling to the PRC. Heightening public and government concern in the fall of 2013 was the DAFOH Global Petition to the UN to end forced organ harvesting and the slaughter of prisoners of conscience for organ procurement. Signed by almost 1.5 million people, the petition has had an extraordinarily widespread impact on increasing awareness and hope that the UNHRC will act.
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President of the Romanian College of Physician’s preface to State Organsreflects a profound understanding of the crisis of forced organ harvesting in China
The Romanian edition of State Organs: Transplant Abuse in China was released in October 2013 with the following preface authored by Prof. Dr. Vasile Astărăstoae, President of the College of Physicians of Romania.
“For one who is concerned with the development and implementation of scientific discoveries, especially in the biomedical field, it is obvious that the twentieth century can be characterized as the darkest century with respect to moral principles. It is the century of abuse in human subject research, a century of concentration camps, and a century of science used in such a manner that the very existence of the human species was endangered. The scientific principle that everything possible is scientifically and morally acceptable is rooted in the philosophy of French Illuminism and has led to unimaginable atrocities. Hence, the reaction of society is to return to an old precept that science must have a conscience.
For those concerned with the development of biomedical science it is obvious that any practice area has a dual aspect. This duality is manifested clearly in the field of transplantation. Clearly, with the imposition of transplantation of organs and tissues in medical practice, thousands of lives are saved. Transplantation is a chance given to be “born” again and at the same time, a chance for other people to manifest selflessness and compassion by donating parts of their body to give life to others. At the same time, the transplant can also reveal an ugly side to humanity.
The main problem in transplantation is a major gap between demand for organs and limited supplies. Sometimes when a person is on the waiting list and the only hope of prolonging life is to get an organ, extreme gestures are made. Thus, a black market for organs was developed in which no principle is respected. “Donors” in this market are always people belonging to vulnerable populations. The worst is when such a market is formalized at the state level.
When I was asked to write a preface for this book (State Organs – Transplant abuse in China), I considered it an easy task. I had read Bloody Harvest: The Killing of the Falun Gong for their Organs, by David Kilgour and David Matas (2009) and believed that this book does nothing more than develop the ideas in the first book. After reading it, I saw it was something else, that in fact it is a compilation of essays on decadence, but also greatness.
The book presents a braiding in the field of transplantation with hypocrisy, cynicism and double standards justified by the so-called pragmatism. Hypocrisy and cynicism are manifested in the international organizations of democratic states and pharmaceutical companies. How else to explain their poor response to the revelations of Bloody Harvest? When you say that human rights are derived from natural rights, it is incomprehensible that the response to these violations are anemic. One might respond that the evidence is insufficient. Maybe it is so. But then, when you have significant clues, you have a moral duty to look at these facts. With over 90% of transplants coming from detained “donors” in China, without identity provided, it is appalling that it no longer arouses suspicion that in fact, prisoners, including those of conscience, are considered official organ banks.
Therefore, one has a bitter feeling when reading this book to know that there is no concerted effort to combat abuse in transplantation. Moreover, the reaction came from professional associations and non-governmental organizations, and not the states. The World Medical Association and The Transplantation Society responded. It is worth reading the chapter byJacob Lavee on how Israeli society managed to impose a new law for organ transplants in Israel, so that the Chinese market of organs from executed prisoners is not accessible to Israeli citizens.
In August 2010, the NGO Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting made an appeal to pharmaceutical companies asking them to avoid involvement in transplants that might be acceptable legally, but not ethically. We know that all pharmaceutical companies claim ethical principles popularizing their codes of ethics and state that their work, including research, is solely for the benefit of patients. Drug companies’ response to this appeal was new clinical trials involving 1,200 organ transplants carried out in the Chinese military and civilian hospitals. In other words, pharmaceutical companies not only promote and sell medicines in China, but also support the development of transplantation even under the circumstances of abuse. Is this not hypocrisy to justify that their research results will benefit patients around the world? Is it ethical to use someone’s suffering and life to reduce suffering and extend the life of another?
Duality can be seen in the attitude of the professionals. One of the principles of the medical profession, not only of bioethics, is to do no harm (primum non nocere). Every graduate of a faculty of medicine and every doctor, regardless of the country of origin, swears to respect this principle. This book presents, on one hand, doctors who perform organ transplants from prisoners, yielding, and on the other hand, the reaction of those who, individually or through professional organizations, require regulations to protect human rights.
I said that this book talks about a double standard and so-called political pragmatism. If the facts from both Bloody Harvest and this book had been disclosed as happening in Romania or any other country of the same size, we would have witnessed violent reactions from the great powers, the European Union, the UN and other international bodies. But because it happened and is happening in China, there are no such reactions there. The justification is that the economic and political interests, or the reaction that China could have, makes them more than cautious. They prefer not to observe human rights violations, to not cause a conflict. I think this is the explanation for why Matas and Kilgour did not receive the Nobel Peace Prize (although they were nominated) and instead the Prize went to President Obama, after only few months in office, or to the European Union.
At the same time, the book gives hope. This message is positive. You see hope because the ethical principles can be affirmed in front of a strong state, supported by the involvement of other powerful states, a group of people – parliamentarians, human rights activists, medical doctors, lawyers, ordinary citizens of the states, all united in the communion of feelings and ideas – this can cause a change. It gives hope that, slowly, the weak and oppressed by the Chinese state see someone defending them. It gives hope for an evolution toward affirmation of human emotions and against greed and oppression.
This book is not about transplantation. It is a book about the civic spirit of justice, of dignity. I do not think there will be a reader who is not influenced. It awakens reactions (pro or con) as a living book, which every member of society must read.”
News In Review:
November 2013 – February 2014
In this December 2013 article, the Epoch Times reports that a 41-year-old man was arrested in China and charged with disrupting the public order for blogging information about people being killed for their organs in his county. The arrest comes after new censorship regulations were issued in September of last year and also comes after the recent European Parliament resolution against forced organ harvesting and the hope inspired by the DAFOH petition to the UNHRC.
In the righteous wake of the European Parliament resolution on organ harvesting in China, parliamentarians worldwide are exposing the brutal reality of the Chinese government’s multimillion dollar organ transplant industry. Writing for the EP Today – a monthly newspaper for the European Parliament – MEP Niccolò Rinaldi calls upon the international community to take action to stop what he terms a “criminal and inhuman activity.”
Members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council and pan-democrats attended a DAFOH Forum entitled “Medical Safety and the International Legislation Trend of Organ Tourism” in November. Many legislators spoke about the need to investigate China’s organ harvesting system and demand transparency in organ procurement. The group accentuated the responsibility of each country to enact legislation to prevent collusion and complicity.
Member of Parliament for the Bouches-du-Rhône, Valérie Boyer, and DAFOH member Dr. Harold King, hosted a forum for doctors and academics in France. The conference gave the floor to professors and French surgeons. According to Professor Dr. Jacques Belghiti, transplant surgeon at Beaujon University Hospital, no scientific feedback has been published on forced organ harvesting in China, and that lack of scientific rigor in medicine, and a lack of interest in the problem of organ trafficking in China will worsen in the future in the context of the commercialization of organs and identifies increased awareness as an optimistic action.
MSP Bob Doris of Glasgow hosted a forum at the Scottish Parliament which included investigative reports and research from international experts on organ harvesting from prisoners in China. Mr. Doris spoke about his success in gaining support from the politically diverse group of 44 MSPs calling for a UN investigation in China. The continuous effort of these MSPs in exerting pressure on the Scottish government to raise the issue in its diplomatic relations with China is highly optimistic.
The international radio broadcaster, Voice of Russia, aired an interview with DAFOH spokesman, Dr. Damon Noto. This article offers excerpts from a moving interview with a doctor on the front lines and highlights reports from inside China, the state of the problem globally, and how people can help today.
This powerful editorial on the Chinese organ transplant industry explains China’s vague new plan to phase out using prisoners as the source of transplant organs. “It’s unclear how these laws will be enforced or whether the agencies in charge have any incentives to do so.” The article cited information from Human Rights Watch, the Matas & Kilgour Report
, and NYU’s Dr. Arthur Caplan
and concluded that “It remains to be seen whether such a system has any chance of combating the entrenched corruption in managing organ transplantation.”
On December 4, 2013 in the UK, the Cardiff University student television station, CUTV, broadcast coverage about an organ harvesting protest their chapter of Amnesty International held on campus. Students and activists demonstrated, presented a poster presentation and created a graphic symbolic representation depicting organ harvesting. This brief video footage also depicts the efforts of DAFOH volunteers in increasing awareness and collecting signatures for the DAFOH global petition to the UNHRC to take action to stop the atrocities in China.
Canadian MPs focused on mounting evidence that China’s communist regime is killing prisoners of conscience to sell their organs for profit, and are now calling for investigation into the Chinese organ transplant system. Investigators Matas and Kilgour spoke before the parliamentary international human rights subcommittee last week with an update of the steady progression of evidence from behind the iron curtain. MP Irwin Cotler said the amount and solidity of evidence that has come to light places the onus on the regime to prove it is not killing Falun Gong adherents and other prisoners of conscience for their organs.
The Irish Examiner published an article to announce and support the EU Parliament’s unanimous decision in December to pass a resolution condemning state-sanctioned organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience in China, including large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners as the primary source of trafficked organs on the Mainland. The paper quotes Falun Dafa Information Center spokesperson Erping Zhang who stated, “This resolution has sent a loud message to the Chinese communist regime that such crimes against humanity are unacceptable by members of civilized societies.” The Examiner has consistently published breaking news reports about this human rights atrocity in China. It has an extensive following in Europe and over 450,000 daily subscribers in the United States.
International News Briefs
Jacob Lavee is a cardiac surgeon and the Director of the Heart Transplantation Unit at the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv, Israel. He is an Associate Professor of Surgery at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine of the Tel Aviv University. He was formerly the chairman of the Israel Society of Cardiothoracic Surgery and president of the Israel Society of Transplantation. As chairman of the Heart and Lung Transplantation Committee of the Israel National Transplant Center he suggested and spearheaded the inclusion of some major clauses in the Israeli Organ Transplantation Law 2008, which has outlawed organ trade and transplant tourism and has increased significantly organ donation in Israel.
|DAFOH: A lack of transparency prevents the international community from knowing the true extent of unethical organ procurement in China, and if the newly announced reforms are being carried out. When faced with ethics violations of this magnitude the international community should have, under international law, the ability to demand access to China’s transplant figures and be allowed to have outside observers monitor the situation within China. How can this be achieved and how can physicians who take the medical oath-primum, non nocere-constructively engage with physicians who are violating the basic principles of medical ethics?|
Dr. Jacob Lavee: Although it is important to welcome and encourage any positive steps in the right direction towards just and fair organ donation and allocation in China, it is premature to be celebrating the end of the current gruesome practice just yet. Although Minister Bin Li expressed the resolve of the PRC Government that the reliance of transplant centers upon organs from executed prisoners must cease, there has not been any move yet towards abolishing the 1984 law which legalizes such practice. Moreover, if the resolve to stop this abhorrent practice is genuine indeed, why then has it been announced to be phased out over a year and not abolished immediately? Furthermore, if organs retrieved from executed prisoners or from non-consenting prisoners of conscience will be distributed by the newly planned computerized organ allocation, with the active involvement of the corrupted Chinese Red Cross, then this system is at risk of becoming a “laundering” mechanism for illegally harvested organs, the origin of which will never be traced.
The international community – medical and diplomatic alike – should require firm actions of China to abolish the law which currently permits the use of organs from executed prisoners and ban such use under any condition; to fully implement such a ban without any delay in all hospitals, including military hospitals, regardless of the burden it will impose on the waiting lists for organ transplantation; and to facilitate international monitoring to verify these changes.
|In a presentation to the Canadian Council of International Law in Ottawa in November, International Human Rights Lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, David Matas, provided a summary of his research on forced organ harvesting in China and an overview of international ethical standards as set forth by The Transplantation Society, the World Medical Association, The Istanbul Declaration and the World Health Organization. His closing remarks, entitled “The Engine of Change,” provided a hopeful vision of a day when we will have “an ethical global organ transplant system.”|
Call for Action:
Contact the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
|DAFOH encourages members and the readership to join the nearly 1.5 million people worldwide who have stepped forward to voice their opposition to forced organ harvesting in China and signed our petition to the UNHRC.|
On December 9, 2013, a DAFOH delegation hand delivered the petition signatures to the UNHRC office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Madame Navanethem Pillay, in Geneva. On the same day, another DAFOH group visited the offices of US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, in New York City with an update on the international efforts to bring an end to this human rights crisis in China.
The signers of the petition are calling for an immediate end to forced organ harvesting in China, for investigations that will lead to the prosecution of those responsible, and for an end to the persecution of the Falun Gong and other spiritual and religious groups.
Please consider taking this opportunity to join the petitioners by writing directly to the UNHRC to voice your concerns and request that Ms. Pillay respond.
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights OHCHR
Ms. Navanethem Pillay
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Telephone: +41 22 917 9220
Email: [email protected]
In New York City:
OHCHR in New York
New York, NY 10017
OHCHR in New York
Room S-1310, 13th floor
New York, USA
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Dear Colleagues and Friends,
Can we afford to remain silent when facing an atrocity as evil as forced organ harvesting from living, non-consenting prisoners? Breaking the silence is not only about bringing hope to the victims; it is also about us. Forced organ harvesting in China is more than an issue of the numbers of victims, it is an issue of the basic right to live and the right of physical integrity of the body.
There is, however, growing awareness: In December 2013, the European Parliament adopted a far-reaching resolution calling for action to end the abusive practice in China. The US Congress is currently discussing House Resolution 281, which expresses concern over persistent and credible reports of systematic, state-sanctioned organ harvesting from non-consenting prisoners of conscience in the PRC. From July to November 2013, close to 1.5 million people signed the DAFOH petition to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Last December, a DAFOH delegation delivered the result of the petition to the office of the High Commissioner in Geneva and also to US Ambassador Power in New York.
Late in 2013, China’s so-called “Hangzhou Resolution” pledged once again to end the taking of organs from executed prisoners. But instead of simply abolishing the law from 1984 that permitted the practice, the government in Beijing shifted the responsibility to the medical profession, asking the directors of China’s 160 transplant centers to sign the resolution asking them to refrain from using prisoners’ organs. About 40 directors signed, the other 75% did not. What has been heralded as progress took the opposite turn.
Moreover, the Hangzhou Resolution was orchestrated in cooperation with The Transplantation Society. In a desperate attempt to circumvent real change, China is rather looking for organizations and individual doctors in the West to export their political methods of dominating the transplant arena: divide and rule. The rulers in Beijing try to distract from their ethical violations by sowing the seeds of discord in the transplant field of Western medical professionals. Following the ethical guidelines of the WMA and WHO, it never occurred to doctors in the West to harvest organs from executed prisoners or to consider commercial organ donations. But now there is a discussion. Is this what we truly want, or is this a discussion that blew in from China into our backyards?
The degree of tension felt by the Chinese government is reflected in the recent actions against the Chinese blogger who texted that there are cases of organ harvesting in his area. While other bloggers directly criticize the government without consequences, his texting on organ harvesting triggered his immediate arrest. Why? If the blog is not well founded, why bother and arrest him after 253 postings? Was it because the message was offensive, or because of a fear that he actually knew more and officials wanted to silence this information channel? The arrest of this blogger is a reminder for us that we have a responsibility to break the silence.
The 1.5 million people who signed the DAFOH petition have taken on this responsibility. They not only expressed their endorsement of the petition, but they also put their hope in the United Nations to intervene and to end this atrocity. So far, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navanethem Pillay, has not responded.
We encourage our readers to join us in asking the United Nations for a response and to write to the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
If we have freedom of expression, then we should have the courage to speak for those who have no freedom to speak for themselves.
Torsten Trey, MD, PhD
Executive Director DAFOH
Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH) aims to provide the medical community and society with objective findings of unethical and illegal organ harvesting. Organ harvesting, the removal of organs from a donor, without free and voluntary consent, is considered a crime against humanity, as well as a threat to the integrity of medical science in general. This edition of our newsletter offers up-to-date information on international efforts to stop unethical organ harvesting.