Bioethics News

Transplant doctors clash over Chinese organ donor system

Criticism of alleged forced organ harvesting in China reached fever pitch this week as the 26th International Congress of The Transplantation Society convened for the first time on Chinese soil.

The Congress, which opened in Hong Kong on Wednesday, features a number of presentations from Chinese researchers, including former Vice-Minister for Health Huang Jiefu, and marks the end of a longstanding Transplantation Society (TTS) embargo on research from China.

Despite claims from Chinese officials that organs will no longer be harvested from executed prisoners, experts from around the world have slammed TTS for this year’s Congress, saying it implies implicit endorsement of current and past organ harvesting practices in China.

In an article published on Wednesday in the American Journal of Transplantation, a day before the Congress opened in Hong Kong, doctors and members of a non-governmental medical organization questioned the “veracity of the announced changes”:

“It is noticeable that China has neither addressed nor included in the reform a pledge to end the procurement of organs from prisoners of conscience, nor have they initiated any legislative amendments…Until we have independent and objective evidence of a complete cessation of unethical organ procurement from prisoners, the medical community has a professional responsibility to maintain the academic embargo on Chinese transplant professionals.”

Current TTS president Philip O’Connell and past president Jeremy Chapman, both Australian doctors based in Sydney, have been heavily criticised for ongoing collaboration with researchers from Chinese hospitals.

Despite having expressed grave concerns about China’s practices as late as December 2013, Jeremy Chapman told the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year that he believes China has ended the use of organs from executed prisoners. 

This article is published by Xavier Symons and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.