Forced Organ Harvesting
The International Association for Ethical Organ Transplants organized the Forced Organ Harvesting Conference at the Senate Building in the National Assembly in Seoul on February 22, 2013. Many human rights activists, medical doctors and lawyers attended the conference, as well as some witnesses.
China has been found to be the leading country in forced organ harvesting with approximately 70,000 organ transplants per year. It costs approximately $62,000 for an organ. In China, organs are not commonly received through donation but rather through the execution of prisoners. These prisoners, including persons from the Falungong religion, Tibetan persons and other prisoners, disappear without trial. In 1999, China had 150 organ transplant centers. By 2005, organ transport centers had increased to 600. Since demand is so high from around the world, people can get easily receive an organ transplantation in China, but don’t they don’t know the source of the organs? It is a kind of state-involved murder. Whenever an organ transplant takes place, someone is executed as casually as killing a chicken. Every day, approximately 20 persons die by lethal injection.
At the conference, special speaker Prof. Jacob Lavee presented on “the impact of the use of organs from executed prisoners in China on the new Organ Transplantation Law in Israel.” Lavee is the director of the Heart Transplantation Unit at the Leviev Heart Center of the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel; a member of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel; Israel National Transplant Center, Ministry of Health, Tel Aviv, Israel; and Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH) – Advisory Board member.
In 2005, a new phenomenon was revealed in Israel. Candidates for heart transplants were offered their transplants in China on a prescheduled date and did, in fact, receive them on those dates. With the non-governmental organization DAFOH, founded in 2007, evidence was then gathered which clearly showed the gruesome systematic sale and use of the organs of executed prisoners and prisoners of conscience for organ transplantation. Transplant tourism from Israel to China flourished the following three years due to a persistently low organ donation rate in Israel. These lower donation rates were the result of cultural and religious objections toward the recognition of brain death among parts of society combined with the ramifications of accepting organs for transplant after questionable deaths, as well as the generous reimbursement of transplant tourism by insurance companies regardless of the legality of the transplant operation performed abroad (mainly in
China). A unique new Organ Transplantation Law, drafted to counter-balance these phenomena, and a law defining brain death determination, have now made a marked impact on the Israeli organ transplantation scene.
In March 2008, Israel’s Parliament passed into legislation two laws relevant to organ transplantation: (A) The Brain Death Law, which defines the precise circumstances and mechanisms to determine brain death and (B) The Organ Transplantation Law, which includes several unique clauses: (1) Totally banning the reimbursement of transplants performed abroad if they are performed under the definitions of organ trade or against local laws; (2) Granting prioritization in organ allocation to candidates for organ transplantation who have either been registered as organ donors for at least three years prior to being listed as candidates, have been live kidney or liver-lobe donors or have given their consent for actual organ donation of their deceased next-of-kin and (3) Removing disincentives for living donation by providing modest insurance reimbursement and some supportive social services. Following an extensive multi-media campaign, the impact of the gradual implementation of these new laws has finally been witnessed in the 2011 annual results of Israel’s National Transplant Center.
In 2011, there were 89 deceased organ donors compared to 60 in 2010, which represents a significant increase in the organ donation rate (7.8 donors per million in population to 11.4 donors per million). In 2011, 267 organ transplants from deceased donors were performed compared to 157 in 2010. The consent rate for organ donation from deceased donors rose from 49 percent in 2010 to 55 percent in 2011. The monthly number of new registered donors rose from an average of 2,889 in the years 1998 to 2010 to a monthly average of 6,273 in 2011, representing an increase in registered donors from 10 to 12 percent of the adult population. Kidney transplants from living donors rose markedly from 71 in 2010 to 117 in 2011. The annual number of patients who underwent a kidney transplant abroad sharply dropped from 155 in 2006 to an alltime low of 35 in 2011. Transplant tourism from Israel to China came to a complete halt. In parallel, in 2012 DAFOH ran a petition which generated 250,000 signatures in the U.S., Europe and Australia, asking the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate unethical organ harvesting in China. DAFOH directors testified before the U.S. Congress and at a hearing in the European Parliament.
The implementation of the new Israeli Organ Transplantation Law, along with the Brain Death Law, has resulted in a significant increase in organ transplants both from deceased donors, by prioritizing holders of donor cards, and from living donors, by removing disincentives for living donation. In addition, transplant tourism from Israel to China was brought to a complete halt by banning its reimbursement.
Conference organizers and Prof. Jacob Lavee(R)
Testimony from witnesses at the National Assembly Building