If you need a new kidney in the U.S., the average waiting time is 679 days. If you need a new liver, the average waiting time is 239 days. These statistics are from the 2017 Milliman Report on organ transplant availability.
But in China– if you’ve got the money – the wait may only be a few days! How could this be possible?
The answer appears to be involuntary organ donations – from prisoners of conscience (Falun Gong members, Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists and “underground” Christians) according to Benedict Rogers, deputy chairman of the U.K. Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission and an adviser to the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China, writing in The Wall Street Journal.
These crimes are difficult to prove since the victims’ bodies are disposed of and the only witnesses are the doctors and prison guards involved. Naturally, the Chinese government is not forthcoming.
Rogers describes an undercover operation led by former Canadian politician and prosecutor David Kilgour, attorney David Matas, American journalist Ethan Gutmann and a team of researchers that posed as patients in Chinese hospitals. They say Dr. Huang Jiefu, China’s former vice minister for health and chairman of its organ-transplant committee, ordered two sparelivers as backups for a 2005 medical operation. They were delivered the next morning. In other words, three prisoners died to guarantee one patient a new liver.
In 2016, these investigators published a report, “Bloody Harvest/the Slaughter: An Update,” which summarized their work since 2006. This update estimated that between 60,000 and 100,000 organs are transplanted each year in Chinese hospitals.
Chinese officials tout “the largest voluntary organ donation system in Asia” and claim to have stopped prisoner donations in 2015. But Rogers is skeptical, noting the lack of any tradition of voluntary organ donation. In 2010 only 34 people donated their organs and even in 2018 the official number was only 6,000 donors who supposedly donated 18,000 organs. But this is far from the number of organs being transplanted as estimated by the “Bloody Harvest” researchers. The authors have confirmed that 712 hospitals in China carry out liver and kidney transplants.
Even death-row inmates cannot explain the number of transplants. China executes more people than the rest of the world combined but still only a few thousand a year. Since Chinese law requires prisoners be executed within seven days of sentencing, there is not enough time to match their organs to patients on the organ donor waiting list and have them ready for transplant.
The obvious conclusion is that involuntary donations of organs by prisoners of conscience continues, despite Chinese official denials. Israel, Taiwan and Spain have banned “organ tourism” to China. United Nations officials have called China to account for the sources of their organs but have received no response. The price of political dissent can be very high in China.