9 May, 16 | by BMJ
Guest Post by Wendy Rogers
Earlier this year, a Malaysian politician, Datuk Bung Moktar Radin, travelled to China to receive a kidney transplant. The details are scanty. There is no mention of the source of the kidney that the Malaysian MP received. Reports of foreigners travelling to China for transplants rarely make the media, yet they may be an important link in trying to untangle the secrets of China’s secretive transplant system.
Back in the early to mid-2000s, Chinese hospitals brazenly advertised on the internet for foreign customers, offering kidney, liver and heart transplants with astonishingly short waiting times of 2-4 weeks. In contrast, patients in countries like Australia, the UK, and the US typically wait years, with many dying before an organ becomes available. Despite initial denials, Chinese officials eventually admitted that virtually all their organs were sourced from executed prisoners. Using executed prisoners as organ donors is uniformly considered unethical because of concerns that prisoners may be manipulated or coerced rather than being genuine volunteers. Voluntary donation is at the heart of most transplant programs world-wide, although there are exceptions.
Violating this ethical principle by selling organs from executed prisoners to foreign (and Chinese) patients might seem enough to make China a pariah in the international transplant community. But this is only one part of China’s terrible transplant secret. Reputable international investigators have gathered evidence that Chinese prisoners of conscience, mainly Falun Gong practitioners, Uyghurs, house Christians and Tibetans, are murdered for their organs. Falun Gong practitioners, who make up the bulk of the millions of Chinese citizens in “re-education through labour (laojiao)” camps, are subject to medical tests to examine the health of their transplantable organs. This process creates a living organ bank where foreign patients and wealthy Chinese citizens can be matched to potential donors, who are then killed on demand so that their organs can be transplanted. This reverse matching process guarantees a suitable organ within a very short waiting period. more…