UNC’s Center for Bioethics Addresses Transplant Abuse in China

The University of North Carolina medical school’s Center for Bioethics recently hosted a symposium entitled Forced Organ Harvesting from Prisoners of Conscience: A Workshop on the Intersection of Medical Advocacy and Medical Ethics.

Transplant surgeon Alexander Toledo, M.D., opened the workshop with the story of a 41-year-old patient who, after not meeting criteria for a liver transplant, returned two months later asking for follow-up care after having flown to China for an on-demand liver transplant from an unidentified donor. Concerned, Dr. Toledo researched, and soon uncovered China’s crime of forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong prisoners of conscience.

Toledo stated, “There’s continuing evidence that this flagrant human rights violation continues up until this time, and the medical community and the international community continue to struggle with the response to this.”

Guest speaker and Falun Gong practitioner Winston Liu shared his experience of being jailed three times before escaping China, saying the abuse he suffered brought him to the verge of mental collapse.

Executive Director of DAFOH Torsten Trey, M.D., Ph.D. spoke on the implausible rise in the number of organ transplants, stating that in the early 2000’s, China’s organ transplant industry grew 20 times faster than the global average. Trey also noted the tremendous rise in the number of transplant hospitals, as well as China’s unheard-of organ wait times, which typically range between 24 hours and 14 days.

International human rights lawyer David Matas presented twelve standards to ensure organs are sourced ethically, and urged the transplant community to use these as a guide. He added that the international community has failed to take concrete action on the issue.

Concerned audience members asked what they could do to help. Trey suggested people use their voice on social media and elsewhere to help break the existing institutional silence, while Matas suggested physicians warn their patients about the forced organ harvesting taking place in China, so they do not become complicit in these crimes.