A forum on Unethical Organ Harvesting in China has been held at the Parliament today and a group of human rights experts have been invited to help UK policy makers promoting legislation that would reduce illegal market of human organs . This is part of their worldwide campaign against the practice of Chinese authorities that harvest organs from prisoners for transplant.
In 2005 Beijing confirmed they rely on death row prisoners to provide organ transplants as there is no voluntary donation system in place.
But the 2006 Kilgour and Matas report as well as other independent researches show that the number of executed prisoners is too small to supply organs for the large national and international market. The gap is filled by prisoners of conscience, in particular Falun Gong practitioners, who follow a peaceful spiritual practice that was banned in 1999 in China. Not exactly death row criminals then.
LISTEN: Zek Hula on who Falung Gong are and why they are targeted for organ harvesting
I have reached Dr. Luc Noel in Lausanne to have his opinion on the matter. He responsible for transplants at the World Health Organisation (WHO) and is skeptical about these researches. He approached the problem very cautiously, mentioning that the mandate of the organisation is not to investigate on human rights. “WHO has its goal in bringing everyone to the highest level of health”, he told me. And China is achieving progress in this sense, implementing a centralised system of organ allocation.
LISTEN: Dr Luc Noel on the position of the World Health Organisation (WHO)
The panel today made allegations that what China is doing is not enough and there is more to passing laws that may never be implemented. Also, the drop in death penalties may lead to more prisoners of conscience to be executed.
Of course China is a sovereign Country and it is very difficult to influence their politics but there is something that Britain can do to improve this situation.
Tackling transplant tourism is crucial. Patients in need often travel to foreign countries and pay the health structures to receive an organ relatively quickly. With waiting times in the range of years in UK or other European countries, it is suspicious that in China a vital organ can be received within one month.
What Dr Adnan Sharif told me was illuminating. He is a transplant expert in Birmingham and advisor of the organisation of Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH): professionals like him are ethically challenged because they must care for their patients after they return to the UK after undergoing transplant abroad but at the same time they know that harm has been made for them to receive those organs. Still, it is not clear how much the patients know about the process and where their organs come from.
LISTEN: Dr Adnan Sharif on patients receiving unethically harvested organs
Conservative MP Neil Parish, has taken this challenge seriously and is escalating the problem to the Foreign Office. He says it has to make sure that people know what they do, if they travel to China for a transplant.
LISTEN: Neil Parish MP about organ harvesting and FCO
The road is not easy, campaigns have been going on for years and although more researches seem to prove that forced organ harvesting is happening, it is hard to picture the reality in people’s minds.
Still, as long as committed people like those who visited the Parliament today exist, human rights battles will not die.
I have gathered some of their recommendation below.
Find out more about the panel:
Hon. David Kilgour, co-author of the 2006 Kilgour and Matas report