Or­gan har­vest­ing ru­mors slammed

China’s anti-re­jec­tion drug vol­ume debunks claims, ex­pert says

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By WILLA WU and HONEY TSANG in Hong Kong Con­tact the writ­ers at willa@chi­nadai­lyhk.com and hon­eyt­sang@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

It can­not be true that be­tween 60,000 and 100,000 or­gan trans­plants are per­formed on the Chi­nese main­land yearly us­ing or­gans taken from ex­e­cuted pris­on­ers, prom­i­nent trans­plan­ta­tion ex­perts said on Thurs­day.

Speak­ing at news con­fer­ence af­ter a sym­po­sium of the 26th In­ter­na­tional Congress of The Trans­plan­ta­tion So­ci­ety, held in Hong Kong, ex­perts Jose Ram on Nunez Pena, med­i­cal of­fi­cer of the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, and Michael Mil­lis, vice-chair­man for global surgery and di­rec­tor at the Uni­ver­sity of Chicago’s School of Medicine Trans­plant Cen­ter, dis­missed the al­le­ga­tions — which were raised by Western crit­ics of China as early as 2006— as im­plau­si­ble.

Pena, a trans­plant sur­geon who has vis­ited China of­ten, said the claimed num­ber is equal to the trans­plant ac­tiv­ity of the en­tire world and is prac­ti­cally im­pos­si­ble.

Pena said that the WHO firmly and with­out reser­va­tion sup­ports China’s neweth-ics-based, trans­par­ent or­gan donor pro­gram, which must be free of cor­rup­tion and fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives.

Trans­parency is the best guard against ru­mors, he said, ac­knowl­edg­ing that China has taken many mea­sures to en­sure the fair­ness and trace­abil­ity of the whole or­gan do­na­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion process.

“It is time to close the door to ru­mors and open the door to the facts,” Pena said. “China now has joined the trans­plan­ta­tion train along with the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. We are all in the same train be­cause we share the same prin­ci­ples and eth­i­cal prac­tices.”

Ru­mors about “or­gan har­vest­ing” were said to be false in 2006, af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­ducted by the United States Con­sulate Gen­eral in Liaon­ing prov­ince. The source of the ru­mor was Falun Gong, an out­lawed group on the Chi­nese main­land, which al­leged that the or­gans of more than 6,000 prac­ti­tion­ers had been il­le­gally ex­tracted at Su­jiatun Throm­bo­sis Hospi­tal in Liaon­ing, it said.

Yet some peo­ple with po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence have made the op­po­site claim. For­mer Cana­dian law­maker David Kil­gour and lawyer David Matas wrote a re­port in 2006 claim­ing that China had re­trieved or­gans from crim­i­nals.

Uni­ver­sity of Chicago’s Mil­lis said years of si­lence on the sub­ject has al­lowed lies to be ped­dled. Har­vest­ing or­gans from crim­i­nals does not hap­pen in China, he said.

For­mer trans­plan­ta­tion so­ci­ety pres­i­dent Fran­cis Del­monico said on Thurs­day that the au­thors of the crit­i­cal re­port should be ques­tioned about how they ac­quired their data.

Huang Jiefu, di­rec­tor of China Or­gan Do­na­tion and Trans­plan­ta­tion Com­mis­sion, de­scribed the al­le­ga­tions as “non­sense” and “ridicu­lous”. He said that trans­plan­ta­tion surg­eries per­formed in China an­nu­ally ac­counted for 8.5 per­cent of the to­tal num­ber of trans­plan­ta­tion surg­eries world­wide.

Con­sump­tion of anti-re­jec­tion med­i­ca­tions — which trans­plant pa­tients must take for life af­ter surgery to pre­vent their im­mune sys­tems from at­tack­ing the or­gans — ac­count for 8 per­cent of global con­sump­tion.

“The two num­bers match, which is ev­i­dence that the spec­u­la­tion is ground­less,” Huang said. “Some or­ga­ni­za­tions are just de­mo­niz­ing China in or­der to ful­fill their po­lit­i­cal pur­poses.”

The Hu­man Or­gan Trans­plan­ta­tion Reg­u­la­tion, a stan­dard­ized le­gal frame­work for or­gan trans­plan­ta­tion, has been in ef­fect in China since 2007.

China banned the use of or­gans ex­tracted from ex­e­cuted pris­on­ers on Jan 1, 2015.

Dur­ing the sym­po­sium, Huang, the com­mis­sion di­rec­tor, said, “China has and will have zero tol­er­ance for any vi­o­la­tion of the coun­try’s reg­u­la­tions in or­gan do­na­tion and trans­plan­ta­tion”.

He added that even though China’s or­gan do­na­tion and trans­plan­ta­tion pro­gram is in its in­fancy, the coun­try will not tol­er­ate be­hav­ior such as re­triev­ing or­gans from ex­e­cuted peo­ple.

Pena praised China’s sys­tem as it man­aged to bring more than 2,700 vol­un­tary do­na­tions, which means more than 10,500 pa­tients re­ceived trans­plants in 2015. And there was a rapid in­crease of do­na­tion cases in the first half of this year. He said it is a clear demon­stra­tion that the sys­tem is fair.

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