Medical professionals and advocates are calling on their global transplant societies to end collaboration and ban transplant-related research papers from China, citing concerns about the human rights atrocity of the forced organ harvesting.
The appeal follows a first-of-its-kind restriction issued by the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation (ISHLT), a non-profit transplant association. The group announced in late August that it would stop accepting organ transplant research from China, in a bid to end transplant abuse that is recurring under the watchful eye of the communist regime.
The team, led by British kidney transplant surgeon Dr Adnan Sharif, welcomed the decision in an article published in The Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation on September 22.
“ISHLT has firmly aligned itself with these ethical principles, which we applaud and implore others to follow their principled example,” the three authors wrote.
“While the international exchange of knowledge, skills and expertise has been a valuable feature of organ donation and transplantation, working with a transplant program tainted by credible evidence of transplant practices contrary to the ethics[s] to crimes against humanity in relation to organ donor sources,” they wrote.
The evidence has been mounting ever since reports and research surfaced in the early 2000s showing that the Chinese regime was forcibly harvesting vital organs from detained prisoners of conscience.
An independent people’s tribunal found in 2019 that forced organ harvesting has been practiced in China for years “on a significant scale,” with imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners being the main source of organs as they are persecuted by the millions by the Chinese government. Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline consisting of meditation exercises and moral teachings based on truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, has been brutally banned by the CCP since 1999. Followers of the practice have been thrown into prisons, labor camps and brainwashing centers, where many were tortured in an effort to force them to renounce their faith.
After year-long investigations, the tribunal, also known as the China Tribunal, concluded that the Chinese regime had committed crimes against humanity and said governments and international bodies ‘must do their duty’ regarding this conclusion.
“Engagement therefore poses grave risks to institutions, groups and transplant corporations of complicity in atrocity crimes and subsequent legal action,” the three medical ethics advocates wrote. The article is co-authored by Dr. Sheldon Stone, member of advocacy group World Uyghur Congress, and Susie Hughes, executive director of transplant ethics advocacy group The International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China.
The official data “are not reliable”
The Chinese regime said in 2015 that it would stop sourcing organs from executed prisoners and rely exclusively on a newly established voluntary donation system.
Sharif and other researchers have disputed the regime’s claims, however, raising concerns after recent surveys cast doubt on the veracity of official Chinese statistics on donation and transplantation activities.
They referenced a 2019 study published in the scientific journal BMC Medical Ethics which found that “reported organ donation figures in Beijing do not add up and there is very compelling evidence that they are falsified” .
The conclusion is based on a review of China’s official data on voluntary organ donation in hospitals between 2010 and 2018, which was published by the China Organ Transplant Response System (COTRS) and the Chinese Red Cross.
Additionally, a separate report, published in February 2019 in the medical journal BMJ, identified that 440 of 445 Chinese medical papers did not specify whether individuals had given consent to donate their body parts. The study is based on an analysis of articles published in English-language peer-reviewed journals between 2000 and 2017 using research involving organ transplants in mainland China.
Call to action
In 2021, 12 United Nations special rapporteurs and human rights experts said in a joint statement that they were “extremely alarmed by reports of organ harvesting in Beijing from imprisoned minorities, including practitioners. of Falun Gong, Uyghurs, Tibetans and Christians”.
Sharif urged medical journals to refuse to publish research articles on Beijing’s organ translation.
“Given the credible allegations and the lack of evidence to the contrary, can we be sure that the Chinese practice is consistent with international law and ethical standards? Otherwise, research related to unethical transplantation is itself unethical,” Sharif wrote in an opinion piece published in 2021.
In August, ISHLT updated its policy regarding transplant ethics.
“Given the body of evidence that the government of the People’s Republic of China is alone in continuing to consistently support obtaining organs or tissues from executed prisoners, transplant-related submissions involving either organs or tissue from human donors in the People’s Republic of China will not be accepted by ISHLT,” the organization said, referring to China’s official name.
In their latest call to defend the ethical pillars underpinning the profession, Sharif and his co-authors cautioned professionals against training visiting physicians or surgeons who might use knowledge gained in “prisoner organ-based transplants.” executed or any other crime related to the transplant” in their countries of origin.
“We believe this is a bold step that underscores the ethical integrity of society and call on other transplant groups to follow suit,” concluded Sharif and the other two experts.
Eva Fu, Frank Fang and Cathy He contributed to the report.