Op-Ed by Carlos Iglesias on Spain’s transplant law

Spain pursues and punishes illegal organ transplants

With the change of the Criminal Code in 2010, obtaining and trafficking illegal organs is a crime in Spain

By Carlos Iglesias


On March 14, 2010, the largest newspaper in Spain, El Pais, published a report on the case of a Spaniard called Oscar Garay who was suffering from terminal liver cancer with a life expectancy of only six to twelve months. This person was not admitted as a candidate for transplantation by the Spanish healthcare system because he did not meet the requirements of the official protocol, so he decided to travel to China to get that liver transplant.

On November 21, 2008, Oscar Garay traveled to China and two days later got to Tianjin where he would be operated on December 11th at the Hospital Number One, whose director was Dr. Shen Zhongyiang at the time. After several payments (up to a total of  130,000 dollars), Oscar Garay got a liver in China in a record time of 20 days, knowing before his arrival that he was going to have a liver available for him, as the hospital had promised.

The reality of what happened in this case corroborates the existence of an unknown number of human organs available illegally in China that belong not only to executed persons charged with death penalty who did not give consent for its removal, but worse still, in many cases they belong to  live, innocent prisoners of conscience, who are killed in order to get their organs removed in exchange for thousands of dollars, which are paid by those who come to China under the guise of “tourist trips”, and that end up directly in the hands and treasury of the Chinese Communist dictatorship.

Oscar Garay’s case is not unique or exceptional. According to data from the Spanish National Transplant Organization itself (ONT), in Spain there are seven cases registered of Spanish residents traveling for illegal transplants tourism. A rough estimation would elevate the number of similar cases to thousands around the world.

The harshness of Garay’s testimony shows how he witnessed himself the “auction” of the liver that was going to be transplanted into his body a few hours later, for which he was forced to pay an additional US$10,000, preventing that another patient who wanted that same organ could finally be the recipient. It is the epitome of the evildoing over human rights under the Chinese Communist dictatorship.

Oscar Garay finally returned to Spain on January 12, 2009, with a liver in his body from an illegal origin and with a simple 2-page report  which did not describe at all no pathology, nor the description or characteristics of the liver that had been implanted. And despite extreme complications suffered as a result of the surgery conducted in China, however, he was duly served at the Cruces Hospital in Bilbao, entering the waiting list for a new transplant, which was finally realized in Spain on April 13, 2011.

For Oscar, the illegal liver acquired in China allowed him to enter the waiting list and be transplanted in Spain with a new liver from a volunteer donor. However, there are many chances an innocent person was killed with impunity in China in order to snatch the liver that was awarded to the highest bidder, and that consumed the $ 130,000 dollars savings of Oscar Garay’s family.

Meanwhile, the Spanish authorities of the Ministry of Health and of the National Transplant Organization itself promoted  since mid of 2010 an amendment of the  Criminal Code criminalizing and persecuting “those who promote, encourage, facilitate or advertise the procurement or trafficking of human organs” including the recipients of these organs who know of the illicit origin of the organ, all under penalty of 3-12 years in prison.

This change in the criminal law seeks to avoid actions that violate human rights that, especially under the dictatorship of the Chinese Communist Party, are sometimes used even to kill innocent people in order to earn large amounts of money by selling human organs removed without consent and with murder.

With the legal change of the Criminal Code in 2010, it is a crime in Spain obtaining and trafficking human organs. Following this, Oscar Garay was denounced by the National Transplant Organization on May 5, 2013, for publicity and praise of illegal transplants, carried out through the interview published in several print media, where he not only recounted his experience but offered to help other people who want to travel to China.

Oscar probably doesn´t know, or doesn´t want to know, that this kind of trip to China could allegedly result in the murder of another innocent person to remove his liver, kidneys or heart, which would be auctioned to the highest bidder. This is the reality hidden from the world  under the dictatorship of the Chinese Communist Party.