Taiwanese International Conference on Medical Safety in Organ Transplantation Abroad: Trends in global legislation


In February 2013, a delegation of doctors and lawyers attended a series of events in Taipei at the National Taiwan University hosted by medical professionals and the Department of Health. The forums reported on unethical organ harvesting practices in China to the Taiwanese government.  Five experts who authored the book “State Organs” were invited to attend: David Kilgour, David Matas, DAFOH members Dr. Jianchao Xu, Dr. Jacob Lavee,  and Dr. Ghazali Ahmad and gave expert testimony.

Forums and government hearings were also held in the Taiwanese Yuan, administrative branches, and universities having a significant impact on awareness and on the development of long awaited legislation to halt collusion in Taiwan.

The Taipei Bar Association Committee for Human Rights released an unprecedented public  statement of support condemning the CCP’s unethical conduct in organ procurement that is expected to help pave the road for future legislation.

Taiwanese officials from the democratic legislative branch of government stated that they would strive to follow the global trend by advocating legislation to ban illegal organ transplants and expand the domestic altruistic organ donor base to discourage citizens from overseas travel for illegal organ transplants.

David Matas enlightened public listeners of Radio Taiwan International saying that although many changes have taken place since the CCP’s organ harvesting was exposed in 1996 criminal unethical organ harvesting continues and a global effort to end it is necessary.

Ghazali Ahmad, chairman of the Advisory Committee of National Kidney Registrar of Malaysia and president of Kidney Association of Malaysia, voiced urgent concerns about Malaysian citizens, “There are still patients willing to pay 350,000 Malaysian Ringgit (about $120,000) to have an illegal kidney transplantation in 2013.”

Mr. Ahmad felt that to stop illegal overseas organ transplants, a nation would have to educate the public, establish altruistic organ donor sources and establish transplant laws.

Dr. Shih Chung-Liang, director of the Bureau of Planning of Medical Affairs at the Department of Health, attended the hearing in support stating, “Let’s hear what other developed countries have done. With a consensus of following the global trend, let’s establish corresponding laws.”

Dr. Jacob Lavee from Israel has targeted illegal and unethical organ transplants and   pushing for relevant laws in Israel. He advocated banning the organ trade, banning intermediates, restricting overseas live organ transplants, placing restrictions on organs traveling across borders, and stopping insurance companies from paying for illegal organ transplants.

Legislative action was influenced by recent congressional hearings in the US in 2012 and the success of petitions to garner support in the EU, Australia and the US. DAFOH volunteers in Taiwan approached medical association members broadly and garnered support, gathering  more than 3,000 signatures on a petition from medical doctors, representing about 20% of doctors in Taiwan.

Prior to this development, in December, 2012  the Taiwan Department of Health issued an official letter to all local health bureaus in Taiwan, the Transplant Society, the Kidney Society and the National  Health Association to address three areas vital to best practices: medical ethics prohibiting organ brokerage, the need to advise patients about foreign transplants involving unknown sources of organs and the need to register all foreign transplants with oversight and regulation through the Health Insurance Bureau.

According to statistics from the Taiwan  Department of Health 88 per cent of the Taiwanese who underwent organ transplants overseas between 2000 and 2011 travelled to mainland China and returned to Taiwan for aftercare indicating significant collusion by medical professionals. The Department of Health announced at the forum that it would revise the laws involving the issue of “human organ transplant regulations,” establish criminal prosecutions of intermediaries or brokers of illegal organ transplants, and reduce the number of patients who would receive organs with unclear origins.

After the law is revised, those who conduct organ transplant intermediary businesses, whether they are physicians, medical professionals, or tourism professionals, once confirmed, would be fined 200,000 to one million Taiwan dollars (about $6,000 to $30,000) and be criminally prosecuted.