Ottawa Citizen: Published: Friday, May 18, 2007 (TORONTO) Foreign patients who travel to China for transplants are likely receiving organs culled from political prisoners who are alive when their corneas, kidneys and livers are harvested, then left to die, an international group of doctors is warning.
China has long used organs from executed criminals, but since 2000 has turned to living donors and outlawed Falun Gong members to supply a growing trade in medical transplants, Doctors Against Organ Harvesting said yesterday.
The newly formed organization is seeking to warn patients that someone else's life is likely being sacrificed in the process of obtaining organs.
The group is sounding the alarm in the medical community about evidence of unethical transplants in China and want doctors to impress the information upon their patients. They want hospitals and universities to close their doors to visiting Chinese physicians and scholars looking to hone their techniques. And they want medical journals to reject research on transplants conducted in China.
"Medical science cannot build up any knowledge which is based on inhuman and unethical procedures," said Trey, who compared China's pilfering of organs from Falun Gong practitioners to Nazi medical experimentation during the Holocaust.
Doctors Against Organ Harvesting was formed in the wake of a Canadian investigation first released last year.
Authored by former Liberal MP David Kilgour and Winnipeg human rights lawyer David Matas, the report claims there is a widespread and systematic policy in China of selling organs from living donors to a growing clientele of desperate patients.
Kilgour said Thursday it is clear Falun Gong members are being targeted over other ethnic groups and religions, as a part of a campaign to villainize their spiritual practice since it fell out of favour with the government in 2000.
The report's conclusions were drawn from interviews with a handful of eyewitnesses from the medical side, recipients of organs harvested in China, official government pronouncements, statistics showing a sudden explosion in the number of transplants performed, marketing websites and undercover inquiries to hospital.
In one instance, an Asian patient recounted that after rifling through a list of potential donors, a military doctor departed and returned to the hospital several times, bringing back a total of eight different kidneys before finally settling on a match.
In another, a sick patient found out one day he needed a transplant and had an organ within 24 hours.
Websites market transplants in China in five different languages and in some cases guarantee availability of a matching organ within two weeks. The average wait time for a kidney in Canada is 32.5 months, while in British Columbia it is 52.5 months.
While he is sympathetic to the plight of ailing Canadians who wait years for a transplant and face the prospect of dying before a match comes along, Kilgour said patients and doctors cannot turn a blind eye.
"Medicine cannot be practised by killing innocent people like chickens," he said.
Gerry Koffman, a Toronto general practitioner and member if Doctors Against Organ Harvesting, said there are about 100 confirmed cases of Canadian patients from Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver having transplants done in China.
One kidney specialist told him about a patient with end-stage renal failure quietly disappearing for several weeks then returning to sheepishly seek after-care for his "second" organ. When his body rejected the first, Chinese doctors quickly supplied him with a second, Koffman said.
The exposure of China's transplant industry, he added, should also be a wake-up call to all Canadians to sign their donor cards so the sick aren't forced to make such desperate choices.
"If more organs were available there would be no need to become an organ tourist," he said.