Killing prisoners for transplants: Forced organ harvesting in China

The subject of two events during the recent International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington on June 29–30 was the practice of forced organ harvesting, in which persecuted religious minorities in China are slain for their essential organs.


For millions of patients, organ transplantation is a life-saving procedure and one of the greatest achievements of contemporary medicine. The global organ trafficking industry, which uses the destitute, oppressed, and persecuted as a source of organs for wealthy transplant tourists, has been fueled by a limited supply of donor organs and a high demand for transplants.

Despite the fact that this behavior is widespread, the situation in China is particularly alarming. China is the only nation in the world to engage in industrial-scale organ trafficking, harvesting organs from condemned political prisoners. Organ harvesting under duress is the term for this action.

Consider the following scenario to better comprehend forced organ harvesting: a patient in Canada with end-stage heart disease is in need of a life-saving cardiac transplant.

Doctors in Canada advise the patient to join a waiting list until a compatible donor passes away under the right circumstances. Weeks, months, or even years may pass throughout this process. When a cardiac transplant from a compatible donor can be scheduled weeks in advance, the patient discovers a transplant program in China that can do the same.

This prompts a number of significant queries. How can the hospital pair this patient with a potential “dead” donor weeks in advance when cardiac transplants can only be obtained from deceased donors? How was this donor discovered by the hospital? How do they anticipate the death of the donor? Has the donor given permission for the removal of their organs?


Distressing facts



The answers to these questions are extremely distressing. China uses incarcerated prisoners of conscience as an organ donor pool to provide compatible transplants for patients. These prisoners or “donors” are executed and their organs harvested against their will, and used in a prolific and profitable transplant industry.


We transplant nephrologists want to educate our peers, organizations, patients, and the general public about organ trafficking, especially coerced organ harvesting. We collaborate with groups who have been active in this field for more than ten years, such as Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting and the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China.

The world’s second-largest transplant program is currently located in China. Early in the 2000s, China had a sharp spike in transplant procedures without a commensurate increase in voluntarily donated organs, raising concerns about the origin of the organs.

Falun Gong practitioners were being imprisoned, subject to persecution, and killed in great numbers by the Chinese government during this time of explosive transplant growth. Similar to this, China launched a campaign in 2017 targeting the Uyghur ethnic group of Xinjiang, which includes mass incarceration, monitoring, sterilization, and forced labor.


Human rights investigations

Two international human rights attorneys, David Kilgour and David Matas, who were later nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for their work, raised concerns regarding forced organ harvesting in the years 2006–2007. To independently look into the allegations of forced organ harvesting, the China Tribunal was established in 2019. Sir Geoffrey Nice, a human rights attorney, serves as its chairman.


RELATED: Forced Organ Harvesting in China: Human Beings as a Material Resource

The Tribunal looked at many different types of evidence, including transplant statistics, medical tests performed on convicts while they were in custody, taped phone calls to transplant hospitals, testimony from surgeons, and testimony from prisoners. The final report’s findings, which were released in March 2020, “proved beyond a reasonable doubt” China’s long-standing practice of harvesting transplant organs from executed political detainees.

Recent evidence reveals that the horrific practice of forced organ harvesting has continued, despite Chinese transplant officials’ claims that considerable reforms have been made since 2015 in the field of transplantation. The world’s top transplant publication, the American Journal of Transplantation, released a report in April that revealed that many organ retrievals in China had not been certified brain dead and that the true cause of death was the removal of the donor’s essential organs. In other words, these inmates were being executed by having their organs removed so that they might be transplanted.

In accordance with a policy statement released in June by the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation, submissions “related to transplantation and using either organs or tissue from human donors in the People’s Republic of China” are prohibited.


RELATED: Italian Magazine Publishes Piece Exposing Beijing’s Forced Organ Harvesting, Hits Back After Criticism From Chinese Embassy

Raising awareness

Unfortunately, using unethical medical procedures on vulnerable communities is nothing new. In concentration camps, the Nazis subjected Jewish victims to horrifying experiments. Sluggish schizophrenia is a diagnosis that was given to political dissidents by Soviet physicians in order to deny them of their civil rights, jobs, and credibility. In the Tuskegee study, American researchers examined the impact of untreated syphilis in African Americans.

For many years, China has executed political prisoners and transplanted their organs. Medical experts, especially transplant doctors, must spread awareness and put pressure on governments, organizations, and hospitals to take action.

We must exercise caution and refrain from partnerships where it is impossible to guarantee organ source openness. We must denounce the mistreatment of Uyghurs and other oppressed communities worldwide and their wrongful and brutal detention.

To eventually reduce the demand for illegal organ trafficking, we must promote organ donor registration and efforts that increase donation.


By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter

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