PHOTO: surgery

For years, China has been criticized by various human rights groups for its traffic in human organs. Reports indicate that the number of organs available for transplant far exceeds the number of volunteer organ donors, which is far less than a few thousand in a country of over 1.4 billion people.

Despite the world-wide organ shortage, Chinese nationals typically do not sign up to be organ donors. In 1984, China passed a resolution that permitted the marketing of human organs from capital criminals who volunteered to donate them upon their execution, and to transplant organs taken from executed prisoners whose bodies were unclaimed.

Ghoulish as this may seem, China has been implicated by many reliable sources to be supplying the global demand for organ transplants that far exceeds those supplied by these “legal” sources.

The Washington Post recently reported that nearly 100,000 organs are made available for transplant in China each year. With the going rate of over $150,000 per transplant, the Chinese transplant industry may be as high as $20 billion.

In most countries where organ donation is practiced, there are profound shortages of available organs for transplant, hence long waiting periods by prospective recipients. China is known in the organ transplant world for its plentiful supply of organs, very short waiting periods, and good tissue matches.

What is the source of this abundance of organs that fuels China’s lucrative transplant industry?

It turns out that certain undesirable dissident groups—kept as prisoners—have been exploited for their organs, especially the Falun Gong Buddhist sect (66 percent of the total) and the Muslim minority groups of northwestern China, such as the Uyghurs (11 percent) and Kazakhs. Other dissidents such as Tibetans, Rights Defenders, and undesirable sex workers make up the bulk of the remaining supply, according to the 2006 Report of the United Nations Rapporteur.

The numbers involve tens of thousands of executed people annually from a base of perhaps a million incarcerated prisoners. Adding to this is the alleged practice by Chinese harvesters of blood typing live prisoners for human leukocyte antigens (protein markers that are needed to ensure a proper tissue match to prevent organ rejection by the recipient).

Steven Mosher, an expert on China and the president of the Population Research Institute, tells LifeSiteNews that victims are executed when a client, typically from the West, registers for an organ. Transplant surgery is often scheduled before the patient arrives in China, suggesting that surgeons already have the organ or will have it immediately available.

The victims are prepared pharmaceutically, often paralyzed, before their organs are taken—often while they are still alive—to ensure maximum organ viability. Their bodies then can be kept on life support to preserve the remaining organs for other patients, maximizing profits.

Who knows about this? Just about everyone you would think matters. The parliaments of Canada and the European Union, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, the World Medical Association, and the American Society of Transplantation have all called China to account for their diabolical transplantation practices. The Chinese deny it all.

However, the supply and demand remain.

This issue goes beyond China’s horrendous transplant policies and practices. Suppose the need for human transplants was eliminated? In the not-too- distant biotechnical future, a ready supply of organs will very likely be incubated in factories, or obtained from genetically modified animals, or from animal/human chimeras developed from mixing and blending stem cells.

All of these are being developed in capable countries across the globe, including the United States. Although ethics boards often exist to monitor concerns, they typically lack adequate moral and philosophical commitments that could head off human disasters.

China’s official atheism is plainly inadequate to generate a repudiation of its transplant practices. But the widespread philosophical materialism of the West can at best only generate a preference for a more humane life-respecting approach.

The West’s current cultural condition bars it from any true moral high ground as we continue to abort unwanted babies, dissect embryos and make them available for research, not to mention the growing interest in euthanasia. All under the pretext of avoiding suffering for a more “privileged” person.

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Dr. Jan Dudt is a professor of biology at Grove City College and a fellow for medical ethics with the Institute for Faith & Freedom.