Deadly harvest stain on China

Organ transplants focus of workshop


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As Manitobans celebrate an abundant harvest this Thanksgiving, they're being asked to think about an unethical harvest -- of organs taken from people imprisoned and executed in China.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/10/2013 (3451 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

As Manitobans celebrate an abundant harvest this Thanksgiving, they’re being asked to think about an unethical harvest — of organs taken from people imprisoned and executed in China.

“It’s not OK at all,” says Ogai Sherzoi, who’s helping to organize a workshop Friday to let Winnipeg health-care professionals know why it’s an issue relevant to them.

In a world that’s becoming more interconnected, health-care providers and students need to be aware of practices in other places, says Sherzoi, whose family fled Afghanistan when she was a child. She’s outraged at the way China harvests human organs.

“It’s state-orchestrated — the military and police and everybody else is involved,” she said.

“It’s one of the greatest ongoing medical human rights abuses in the world,” says Kirk Allison, director of the Program in Human Rights and Health at the University of Minnesota, who is set to speak at the event at St. Boniface Hospital.

Medical researchers, bioethicists and transplant surgeons need to be aware of the lack of ethics in China, said Allison.

“It’s a medical system addicted to execution as a source for organs,” said Allison, who has been studying the issue for seven years. Rather than demanding an end to the practice of harvesting organs from prisoners and those executed in China, the world stands by hopes the government will phase it out and adopt a voluntary organ-donation system that catches on, he said.

While there’s no established, voluntary organ-transplant system in China, there are 53 crimes for which a person can be put to death, said Allison. Military and civilian hospitals have raked in $600,000 per executed prisoner, he said. Researchers in China with access to those cadavers and organs have been published in journals and invited to share their knowledge at universities abroad. Allison is concerned unless universities, medical journals and teaching hospitals outside China speak up, forced organ harvesting will continue.

When it comes to the sale of human organs, “China is very unique,” says University of Manitoba social work Prof. Maria Cheung.

“Usually it’s done on the black market, but in China it’s state-orchestrated through the military system,” said Cheung. She made headlines two years ago in Winnipeg when she demonstrated downtown outside Bodies… The Exhibition over concerns the cadavers on display had been Chinese political prisoners, including Falun Gong members.

Now she’s helping to organize the workshop Friday at 2:30 p.m. at the St. Boniface Hospital auditorium and a rally Saturday at 1 p.m. in front of the legislature. Allison, Nobel prize nominee and human rights lawyer David Matas and Dr. Damon Noto with Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting will speak at the rally. Noto’s association has collected nearly half a million signatures on a UN petition – including 1,500 from Winnipeg – calling for an end to forced organ harvesting in China.

‘It’s one of the greatest ongoing medical human rights abuses in the world’

— Kirk Allison, of illegal organ harvesting

It’s a turning point, said Cheung. In the past, China denied forced organ harvesting.

“Now they’ve started to say they want to do something about it… to establish a donation system,” she says.

“International voices are very critical at this point in time. If there are enough voices and pressure, China will really look into it and be specific about what they’re going to change.”

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.


Updated on Thursday, October 10, 2013 5:13 PM CDT: Corrects title of Allison, description of Matas.

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