Washington, Dec 22, 2014 — The recent proposal from China to build a mutual organ exchange platform for transplant organs with Taiwan is of utmost concern as a threat to Taiwan’s compliance with international ethical standards in medicine as endorsed by the global community.
The WHO Guiding Principles on organ transplantation, No. 10 and No. 11, demand traceability and transparency. Yet, China has not complied with these guidelines, and with the recent implementation of the computerized China Organ Transplant Response System (COTRS), traceability and transparency is absent.
As there is currently no way for Taiwan to verify the source of organs shared with the PRC, the Taiwanese medical community and society cannot reasonably agree to such a platform.
Given the decade-long practice of unethically harvesting organs from executed prisoners, and the unlawful harvesting of organs from prisoners of conscience, primarily from persecuted Falun Gong spiritual practitioners, any organ exchange platform for transplant organs with China carries a certain and defined risk of complicity in an unethical, criminal medical practice. It is recommended for all countries and regions, including Taiwan, to repel this threat to medical practices and ethical standards.
Chinese officials recently announced that starting in 2015 prisoners would be considered citizens who can “voluntarily” donate organs, like other citizens, and their organs would be registered in the China Organ Transplant Response System (COTRS) without any special identification. However, international ethical standards state that prisoners are not in the position to give free, voluntary consent, which is the precondition for ethical organ donation. The PRC’s proposed organ exchange platform with Taiwan offers enticing medical benefits and a promise to help patients. But, the reality of the proposal is a plan to extend complicity with its unabated, execution style, transplantation system.
To date, the PRC has failed to publicly acknowledge the forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience. There is undeniable evidence that detained Falun Gong spiritual practitioners, in particular, are subject to medical examinations and diagnostics. In one noted case, hundreds of prisoners of conscience were blood tested in a single prison location. Such cost-intensive medical exams within forced labor camps or prisons are implausible and unprecedented in history. There is a risk that these inmates could be forcibly enrolled in the China Organ Transplant Response System. Without publicly acknowledging that prisoners of conscience are subject to organ harvesting in China, there is a probability that such organs could be entered into China’s proposed organ exchange platform. Taiwanese patients could unknowingly become accomplices in the whitewashing of criminally procured transplant organs.
The recent expansion of the so-called voluntary organ donation program in China is unrealistic. It takes many years of public education and campaigning to foster voluntary organ donations among a broader population. Any fast development of a public organ donation program is highly suspicious of non-voluntary organ sourcing.
Damon Noto, MD