Medical professionals from Taiwan, Germany, Ireland, and the United States agree that organ harvesting from non-consenting prisoners of conscience in China is a gross violation of internationally accepted human rights and medical ethics. The medical profession should be guided by altruistic ideals rather than financial gain. The global medical community is called upon to choose between ethical action or complicity in crimes against humanity.
Raymond Scalettar, MD, Professor Emeritus, George Washington University and former chair of the American Medical Association, USA
The codes of ethics on transplantation of organs from living donors in the United States is well established by the American Medical Association (AMA) with informed and free consent for both donor and recipient without such conflicts of interests as payments for and commercialization of transplants.
Dr. Scalettar said, “The World Medical Association (WMA) represents millions of international physicians to achieve the highest possible standards of medical care and ethics and the AMA has significant influence. The WMA in 2020 issued a declaration to prevent and battle transplant related crimes” while noting that sadly, in China, there is no transparency surrounding transplantation or commitment to international guidelines. He expressed hope that “future United States transplant trainees agree to these ethical principles before they can be allowed to enter into the transplant programs.”
He pointed out serious ethical concerns that were raised when the Annals of Surgery published an article by Chinese transplant surgeons who found matching lungs for an elderly COVID-19 pneumonia patient in only 3-4 days. “In the United States, with a huge registry of transplant donors much larger than China, the minimal wait time for this type of donor… is 15 days.”
Shi-Wei Huang, MD, Director of Urology, Taiwan University Hospital, Yunlin Branch, Taiwan
Transplant tourism from Taiwan began in the 1990s with patients going to China to receive kidney transplantations. Those numbers increased rapidly though after 2000, soon after the onset of the persecution of Falun Gong in 1999, with patients flocking to China from not only Taiwan but also from South Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Western countries.
Since 2000, China has developed a highly lucrative organ transplant industry that is an opaque system with no transparency or traceability. The actual number of transplant surgeries performed far exceed official government national statistics. There are many large major hospital centers that rely on organ transplants as the main source of revenue.
Dr. Huang said, “In China, as long as human rights violation persists and the CCP remains opaque about information and data, transplant abuse is unlikely to disappear.”
Declan Lyons, MD, PhD, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry, School of Medicine Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
Ethics in medicine is a pillar for clinical care. It is the ethical responsibility of medical professionals to build mutual trust between patient and practitioner. “Trust is vital if patients are to seek and obtain the necessary help from doctors, it can’t be taken for granted” Dr. Lyons said, while “altruism and generosity is the very essence of organ donation, I believe.”
China’s overt and outrageous ethical violations in transplant medicine offend physicians everywhere and such “state sponsored cruelty will erode moral and civic duties.” Trust in and credibility of the medical profession is damaged if doctors tolerate such gross violations of medical ethics.
Dr. Lyons stated, “disparity in bioethics anywhere weakens bioethics everywhere in all corners of the globe. Altruism, not state coercion, needs to be engendered in organ donation in China through public education,” warning that “China must engage with the international community or risk isolation.” He concluded that “protecting human rights and safeguarding the environment will mark out successful societies during the 21st century.”
David H. Beyda, MD, Chair and Professor, Department of Bioethics and Medical Humanism, Professor, Child Health, and Director, Global Health Program, University of Arizona College of Medicine, USA
The practice of forced organ harvesting denigrates human morality and dignity by turning people into commodities. Dr. Beyda explains that the common rights of dignity, honesty, trust, and integrity are denigrated when persons are not recognizing as persons. Individuals not recognized as persons become vulnerable, are taken advantage of and turned into commodities. Regarding forced organ harvesting, he said, “from the ethical perspective, there is this significant… devastation of moral foundation, on the part of those who take advantage of these vulnerable people.”
Surgeons who participate in illicit organ procurement as well as those who pay for and receive such organs have lost all ethical principles in favor of self-promotion. Dr. Beyda stated, “There is no moral intake or input on the part of those who seek the organs other than the self-gratification, this whole concept of me first, me principle. The surgeons who do these atrocious things to the vulnerable, they themselves are so far outside the boundaries of the profession and the vocation of healing, are they themselves completely unworthy of the gift that was given to them of being a physician healer.”
Huige Li, MD, PhD, Professor of Pharmacology, University Medical Center of Mainz, Germany
The grim history of the removal of organs from living persons in China began with the non-lethal shooting of condemned prisoners at execution which left the heart still beating at the time of organ removal.
He describes an article from the Intermediate People’s Court of Lu’an City that extols the advantages of lethal injection that “takes only 10s of seconds from the start of the injection to the death of the death row prisoner.” In China, executed prisoners are considered dead and have organs harvested within seconds of lethal injection. In the United States, protocols for lethal injections take “nine minutes to thirteen minutes from the start of injection to [result in] cardiac arrest.”
Dr. Huige related that medical publications and eyewitness testimonies prove that prisoners are alive when organs are harvested and may “have suffered from extreme pain.” A research paper describes the removal of a still beating heart from patient that had not underdone brain death determination. “It was a living patient who was killed by the doctors by removing the heart.”
“Live organ harvesting, mean[s] that organ harvesting from a still living person was carried both from prisoners sentenced to death and from political prisoners, and this is a crime against humanity.”
Kathleen Thimsen, DNP, Associate Professor, Program Director, Director of Nursing Practice, University of Nevada, USA
Forensic nurses have joined the World Summit as advocates for prisoners of conscience, the primary victims of forced organ harvesting, and for naive and vulnerable pre-transplant patients. Dr. Thimsen, a member of the US Academy of Forensic Nurses, advocated for inclusion of forced organ harvesting prevention and education in the Universal Code of Ethics for Nurses. She felt that nursing schools also have an obligation to include this in their curriculum.
Dr. Thimsen added, “The act and conduct of forced organ harvesting is a significant public health issue as well as a human rights violation to the many persons that are implicated during the transplant procurement, retrieval, and implantation process.”
G. Weldon Gilcrease, MD, Associate Professor of Oncology, University of Utah School of Medicine, USA
The overwhelming evidence of forced organ harvesting has gone unrecognized by most of the medical community, and indeed most of the world. American medical teaching institutions continue with engagement and cooperation with China on many levels. Collaborating with a medical system run by the totalitarian regime in China is dangerous. Those responsible for such egregious crimes much be held accountable.
Dr. Gilcrease stressed that we must act to stop forced organ harvesting rather than remain silent about it. “I think that as one common voice, we can make a difference. We can make a difference in our institutions, at our transplant centers, but it simply will take a strong unified voice saying that we simply can’t tolerate this to continue happening. And we can’t say nothing because, as we’ve said nothing, we’ve seen that it does continue to happen.”