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China is inviting leading doctors and medical organizations to participate in the country’s purported first international Organ Donation and Transplantation Conference in Guangzhou on August 21-23, 2015. While medical conferences are usually organized to provide opportunities for the exchange of scientific knowledge, the Guangzhou conference is instead designed to stage a celebration of China’s latest announcements.
In addition to the semantic trick of redefining death row prisoners as citizens with the right to donate organs, Huang Jiefu recently described China’s organ donation system as a “newborn baby” despite the fact that it is poised to perform about 12,000 transplants in 2015. China is the second largest transplant market in the world after the United States. Implying that its organ donation system is fragile like a newborn baby might aim at propitiating medical doctors and organizations on the international stage, when instead we would like to see this level of protectiveness towards the prisoners and prisoners of conscience who are killed for their organs.
While China announced that it would end unethical organ harvesting from executed prisoners by January 2015, the Taiwanese Yuan held their applause and took measures to ensure avoiding collusion with unethical organ harvesting schemes by taking distinct legislative action.
On June 12, 2015, the Taiwanese congress duly passed new amendments to the established Human Organ Transplantation Act (人體器官移植條例) making a far-reaching new Organ Trafficking Law, OTL. With this ground-breaking legislation, Taiwan has passed one of the most advanced medical transplant laws in the world.
After several years of persistent effort and ongoing investigations, the Taiwan Legislature passed the amendments banning the sale and purchase of organs for transplantation as a crime against humanity, with a special consideration of the use of organs from executed prisoners in China. The law prohibits the selling, buying and brokering of organs and transplant tourism. The Department of Health will now require major medical institutions and physicians to register the country of all organ sourcing and hospital information (including surgeon identification) where patients received their organ transplants abroad when they apply for post-operative health insurance payments after returning home.
The China Post reported that patients receiving illegal organ transplants overseas will face a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of NT$300,000. This bill supports transparency of foreign organ transplants and ensures patient safety. The new law should serve as an inspiration to other legislators.
In recent months, DAFOH, whose mission is to raise awareness, reports an increase in membership by registered nurses from around the world. These nurses are courageously and collectively acting on an international level to help see an end to unethical forced organ harvesting and the ongoing persecution of innocent people in China who are subject to this crime against humanity.
Transplantation is one of the most ethically challenging areas of modern medicine and nursing practice. There are many aspects of concern, including organ trafficking in several regions of the world, but there is one problem that goes far beyond human trafficking in organs: unethical forced organ harvesting from prisoners and detained prisoners of conscience in China. This urgent humanitarian crisis tops the list as a primary issue of concern. The breach of the commonly agreed to free, voluntary and altruistic organ donation has been happening for over three decades in China. This concerns nurses directly, and in professional roles nurses are acting to fight this as one of the worst violations of medical ethics in modern times.
In June, DAFOH nurses and doctors joined other advocates against forced organ harvesting in Washington D.C., visiting congressional representatives to offer the latest information about this human rights crisis, and requesting co-sponsorship for a bipartisan resolution that was recently re-introduced in Congress, House Resolution 343, concerning forced organ harvesting.
In Seoul, South Korea, DAFOH nurses hosted a successful education booth visited by almost 10,000 nurses, doctors and healthcare providers at the 2015 International Conference of Nurses.
At the 70th anniversary of the UN Charter a joint open letter urges the UN High Commissioner to take action against illegal organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience.
Four leading global human rights advocacy groups are calling on the United Nations to use its influence to halt the practice of forced organ harvesting in China and to coordinate global efforts aimed at making transplant medicine safe and ethical.
In an open letter from August 3, 2015, Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting, the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty, the Swiss branches of the Society for Threatened Peoples and the International Society for Human Rightscalled upon His Excellency Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to move from words to deeds in confronting the harvesting of organs from prisoners of conscience in China, particularly from Falun Gong, Uighurs, Tibetans and Christian minority groups.
“As organizations committed to preserving human rights, we are deeply concerned about forced organ harvesting – organ procurement without free, voluntary consent – from prisoners of conscience in China, which is a crime against humanity and violates the core values of the United Nations Charter,” wrote the authors.
The letter to the High Commissioner follows a June 24th seminar at the United Nations Palais des Nations in Geneva, which examined the trafficking of forcibly obtained human organs, a practice that international observers say continues unabated despite contrary claims from the government of the People’s Republic of China.
In addition to calling on the UN to lend its authority and resources to the global effort to end the practice in China the groups are also requesting the creation of a working group within the United Nations dedicated to ending global abuses of transplant medicine, not limited to transplant tourism and black markets, and including forced organ harvesting from vulnerable prisoners of conscience. Because prisoners of conscience live ostracized they are at high risk for being used to feed the lucrative on-demand transplant market in China by disappearing into the catacombs of Chinese military hospitals. These victims have served, for more than a decade, as the foundation for the exponential transplant boom in China, which has defied all rational explanations of ethical organ procurement.
“The ‘victims and the voiceless,’ who are killed for their organs in a country whose government has ratified the Charter of the United Nations, are hoping to see the light of the next day,” the groups wrote in their letter, urging in the clearest possible terms that “these crimes against humanity must end now.”
As Chinese officials continue to offer platitudes and evade questions about illegal transplantation practices, a new resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives demands accountability and will call China’s bluff.
On June 25, 2015 Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA) introduced bipartisan House Resolution 343 (H. Res. 343), “Expressing concern regarding persistent and credible reports of systematic, state-sanctioned organ harvesting from non-consenting prisoners of conscience in the People’s Republic of China, including from large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups.” In less than three weeks, 74 congressional co-sponsors signed on in support of this issue.
H. Res. 343 voices particular concern for the spiritual Falun Gong in China because they are recognized as the most severely and frequently persecuted group. With over 100,000,000 adherents in China alone, they make up what investigators and human rights groups believe is the largest group of prisoners of conscience in detention in the world, and are being used as a convenient living source of organs for transplantation purposes.
Under international pressure, China has openly disclosed taking organs from death row criminal prisoners, but despite extensive evidence, has not acknowledged forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience. A crime against humanity, forced organ harvesting needs immediate attention. H. Res. 343 states: “The killing of religious or political prisoners for the purpose of selling their organs for transplants is an egregious and intolerable violation of the fundamental right to life.”
Representatives Ros-Lehtinen, Connolly and many concerned colleagues who support H. Res. 343 should be commended for this noble and persistent effort. They are urging the medical community to provide leadership and help raise awareness. As medical professionals, we should stand with Congress, and with other nations in the free world who have taken action against these horrors. Medical professionals are in the best position to educate and encourage federal representatives with clarity and rationality, and press the U.S. State Department to take action. It must be made abundantly clear to China that the world’s medical community will not tolerate this criminal breach.
It is up to the medical community to re-establish and enforce universally held medical transplantation ethics and practices in dealing with China, and wherever they are violated. This resolution is a critical first step in the direction of establishing a foundation for reform and for the prevention of collusion.
Please call, write or email your representative in Congress today asking for co-sponsorship of this resolution. We ask that all physicians and their colleagues, family and friends position themselves as advocates to widely share this concern and take action today.
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Dr. Caplan is the author, or editor, of thirty-two books, and of 600 papers in peer-reviewed journals of medicine and health policy, and has written extensively on unethical forced organ harvesting. He has served on many national and international committees and boards, and has consulted with many corporations, not-for-profit organizations and consumer organizations. He has served as the co-director of a United Nations/Council of Europe Study on organ trafficking. Well known as the head of the Division of Medical Ethics, at New York University, Langone Medical Center, in New York City, Dr. Caplan is also fellow of the Hastings Center, the New York Academy of Medicine, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is on the Board of Trustees of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and the AAUP Foundation.
DAFOH: What does your new book, Replacement Parts, add to the discussion of organ donation ethics, and why is it a must-read for all doctors?
Caplan: Our book brings together the latest thinking about the ethical and social dimensions of organ transplantation. Knowing the core ethical obligations of both procurement and allocation is crucial for working with patients, agencies, courts and policy makers.
DAFOH: The Transplantation Society (TTS) and the Declaration of Istanbul Custodian Group (DICG) are ethically bound to insist on, and oversee, transparency and verification of global organ procurement standards. According to your research, do these organizations live up to their responsibilities?
Caplan: They try but governments and transplant programs are not bound to follow their recommendations. International groups and governments must be vigilant and enforce ethical and legal requirements to bolster what these groups do.
DAFOH: The China Transplant Congress to be held in Beijing on August 6-8, 2015, has been advertised in medical journals. International medical organizations, e.g. TTS and WHO, and doctors from all over the world may attend. DAFOH has reservations concerning China’s unfeasible claim to build a voluntary organ donation system that yields 3,000-5,000 organs within 2-3 years. The Red Cross Society of China has staff that screens hospitals for death bed patients and offers monetary compensation in exchange for organs. This is in violation of WHO’s guiding principles. Hospitals continue to provide transplant organs, for example a liver, within 10 days and doctors returning from China report that executed prisoners are still subject to organ harvesting, or that they have helped their patients to receive organs in China. Is it naïve to attend the China Transplant Congress and applaud the announcements without verification? Can you comment on this?
Caplan: Sadly, the time has not yet come to end the ‘boycott’ of Chinese transplant science which I helped organize a few years ago. Until China truly creates a viable cadaver donor program not fueled by executed prisoners and distributes organs according to need, not the marketplace, protest should continue.
DAFOH: Considering the many aspects of evidence and reports, what most convinced you that prisoners of conscience were being killed for their organs in China, and how would you illustrate this to the public?
Caplan: Simple-the number of organs available cannot come from any other source but prisoners executed on demand for their parts. There is no true cadaver system in operation in China-prisoners are used and just caste, falsely, as choosing to donate.
Governments and Parliamentarians
Bipartisan H. Res. 343 calls for an end to forced organ harvesting in China
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-27) and Gerald Connolly (D-VA-11) introduced House Resolution 343 in the U.S. House of Representatives in June, calling on the Chinese government to end forced organ harvesting of living prisoners of conscience, and asking the U.S. medical community to help raise awareness of unethical organ transplant practices in China.
Criminalizing collusion: The Human Organ Transplantation Act of Taiwan
The Taiwan Legislature has amended established transplant rulings making the sale and purchase of human organs a punishable crime and targeting the exploitation of organs taken from executed prisoners in China. Patients involved in getting organs by illegal means will face years in jail and heavy fines. Doctors and hospitals will be made accountable for disclosing all organ sources and false reports will result in criminal charges.
Resolution against organ harvesting Introduced in Italian House of Representatives
On July 25th, eighteen members of the Italian House of Representatives introduced a resolution calling on the Chinese government to release all prisoners of conscience, asking Italian hospitals to reconsider training Chinese transplant surgeons and proposing a ban on transplant conferences in countries that fail to respect international transplant ethics.
European Parliament workshop on organ harvesting: a contemporary expose
Investigator David Kilgour advised Parliament on drafting new laws to fight collusion, saying, “The European Parliament and EU member national parliaments should make illegal the purchase of trafficked organs, with such legislation to apply extraterritorially to residents of the respective countries, and enact penalties for those convicted of participating in the trafficking in organs which enter EU countries.”
Minnesota State Senator’s concern about organ harvesting draws China’s attention
A representative from the Chinese Consulate in Chicago personally called on Senator Dan Hall (R-56) to refute evidence of criminal organ harvesting in China after Hall sponsored a bill addressing the urgent concerns for prisoners of conscience there. The Senator explained “The refusal of the Chinese government to present a verifiable accounting for the spike in available transplant organs raises suspicions.”
New 8 minute documentary captures the impassioned commitment of Europe’s members of Parliament as they take the historic action of unanimously passing a resolution condemning the brutal crimes against humanity involving prisoners of conscience in China, and clearly imposing the rule of law.
Medical Professionals and Associations
Replacement Parts: The Ethics of Procuring and Replacing Organs in Humans
Internationally recognized bioethicist and head of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University Langone Medical Center, Arthur Caplan’s new book offers guidance and advice for doctors on ethical issues involving transplant tourism in China and is a first-of-its-kind collection of case study reports aimed at exploring the responsibilities of surgeons, physicians, nurses, and other professionals involved in organ transplantation.
Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting Actions
In an open letter on August 3, 2015, DAFOH, the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty, the Swiss branches of the Society for Threatened Peoples and the International Society for Human Rights called on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to move from words to deeds in confronting the harvesting of organs from prisoners of conscience in China and establish an onsite working group in Geneva.
Palais des Nations, UN, Geneva hosts international forum
Hosted by the United Nations, a forum of DAFOH doctor members and other experts on forced organ harvesting in China updated global authorities on recent events indicating illegal practices continue despite China’s repeated denials.
Bulgarians launch DAFOH Petition 2015 against live organ harvesting in China
A grass roots movement to stop forced organ harvesting in China by Bulgarian citizens that began in 2013 with a DAFOH petition drive now gains momentum in 2015, with strong support and a successful campaign in Varna to increase awareness and prevent collusion.
Investigators and Media
Manitoba professor speaks on forced organ harvesting to Canadian leadership
Social worker, Maria Cheung, PhD, member of the advisory board of the Center for Human Rights Research at the University of Manitoba, learned first hand about persecution in China as a researcher on the ground in rural areas of the Mainland. “It is important for us to take a stand and ask China to respect basic global human rights and ethical standards to stop killing innocent citizens.”
David Kilgour: Naming, Shaming and Ending a Crime Against Humanity in China
After China’s promise of transplant reform in 2015, investigator and human rights attorney David Kilgour responds, “Huang (Jiefu) announced in 2012 that the party-state would cease organ pillaging/trafficking in three to five years. Later he asserted that by 2014 it would end. Today, it has become clear to discerning observers that organ pillaging/trafficking continues as ‘business as usual’ across China.”
15th International Symposium of the World Society of Victimology, Perth, Australia
Nobel Peace Prize nominee and attorney David Matas asked Australian leaders to confront forced organ harvesting from prisoners in their diplomatic talks with Chinese officials and business people, to restrict visas for anyone who has participated in organ harvesting crimes, and require all Australians who engage in transplant tourism to China to report to the government immediately.
In depth documentary on forced organ harvesting wins big with Peabody Award
Leon Lee’s new documentary, Human Harvest, won the prestigious Peabody in May. The film traces the work of Canadian investigators David Matas and David Kilgour whose book, Bloody Harvest, was the first to offer extensive evidence of China’s state sanctioned crimes against humanity of forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience and its impact on humanity.
Seven developments: David Matas at the University of South Australia
With clarity and determination, seven themes of compassion emerge: Italy and Taiwan make organ trading and tourism a punishable crime; South Australia’s Parliament plans to amend laws; Chinese transplant professionals are ostracized by the international transplant community; Falun Gong are subjected to forced blood testing at home; WHO passes resolution on use of human medical products; and a progress report emerges on the Code of Ethics’ convention against organ trafficking.
50,000 Mainland Chinese citizens courageously sign petition in protest
Despite slanderous propaganda, tight media censorship and oppression, Chinese citizens behind the iron curtain learn about their country’s criminal forced organ harvesting and express solidarity with millions of other petition supporters around the globe.
Autobiography of Canadian Human Rights Attorney David Matas
A pioneer in the field of human rights, Matas spent decades defending human rights by compiling investigative reports, writing books, testifying before world governments, speaking at forums and appearing in award-winning documentaries. His autobiography highlights China’s organ harvesting trade and the antidotal human rights movement as a means of creating solidarity with all of humanity.
German publishers announce book opening and translation: The Slaughter
Investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann attended an opening in Berlin for the launching of the German version of his must-read new book, The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China’s Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem.
CCP rolls out anti-corruption scheme against medical institutions
Sentinel journalists Lu Chen and Matthew Robertson tie political corruption to illicit organ trading in China, exposing how dozens of universities and hospitals are under investigation for corruption in China, and look into the growing number of China’s senior medical administrators removed from institutions, “that had their fingers in the bloody business of forced organ harvesting” under China’s past and current leadership.
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
With growing awareness of China’s organ transplant abuses, the lack of transparency in its organ procurement practices, and its strong resistance to independent inspection, the international community has responded not only with outrage but with legislative action. Taiwan has amended its existing laws to enact significantly stricter standards regarding transplant practices. Other parliaments around the world are working on similar measures. With the introduction of H.Res. 343, the U.S. Congress continues its scrutiny of China’s transplant practices.
China cannot escape the world’s request for transparency and accountability by announcing an intention to end organ harvesting from executed prisoners. Like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, they rapidly fabricated a “voluntary organ donation program” in response to international pressure. Yet, there is a significant ethical difference between voluntary and coercive organ donation. Regardless of how China tries to hide its abusive practices, available evidence exposes gaps in their cover up. Additionally, China has never addressed the fact that the majority of organs used in transplant operations have been harvested from living prisoners of conscience, not from convicted criminals.
Medical professionals around the world must continue to demand that China comply with independent inspections to provide evidence of concrete compliance with internationally accepted transplant practices. After 20 years of consistently violating the most basic of ethical standards, much more is required of them than repeated verbal promises. China’s well-oiled propaganda machine has used semantics to repackage an inconvenient topic by dressing the same body in new clothes. Redefining “death row prisoners” as “citizens with the right to donate organs,” and using the term “newborn baby” to solicit support while they expect to “perform about 12,000 transplants in 2015” is a tongue twister of misleading information.
Therefore, it is our contention that by attending the Guangzhou conference and applauding the verbal pledges made by China, the medical community may be unwittingly condoning and even encouraging China’s ongoing unethical transplant practices that take the lives of prisoners of conscience. We appeal to those planning to attend the August 2015 Guangzhou conference not to applaud China’s pledges without demanding further scrutiny. Do not praise the possibility of change but, instead, act to ensure that no more innocents are killed on demand for their organs.
Torsten Trey, MD, PhD
Executive Director, DAFOH
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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.