TAICOT Newsletter- Feb 2018

  • 2018-02-01
TAOCOT Newsletter

TAICOT Newsletter - Feb 2018

Transplant Experts: Model for Asia—Taiwan’s Experience in Curbing Transplant Tourism

Taiwan Association for International Care of Organ Transplantation (TAICOT) was invited to present its recent study in the 15th Congress of the Asian Society of Transplantation (CAST) in November 2017. Researchers from TAICOT indicated that the percentages and numbers of Taiwanese patients traveling to China for organ transplants significantly decreased after the implementation of the newly amended Human Organ Transplant Act (“the Act”). The study attracted the attention of the transplant experts at the symposium.

Dr. Sunil SHROFF, a renowned Indian kidney transplant surgeon and founder of the Mohan Foundation, stated, “I must congratulate the Government of Taiwan for taking this very big step forward in trying to curb organ commerce in the world. I think more and more countries need to follow the same steps.”

Dr. Francisco E. SARMIENTO III, Manager of Organ Donation and Transplantation Project of Ministry of Health in the Philippines, said, “we were actually pleased that there is another country in Asia that supports the move against organ trafficking, and the reason why I stood up and expressed our gratitude to Taiwan because this should be a consorted effort.”

CAST Presentation

More than 700 doctors and experts in the international transplantation community attended the 15th Congress of the Asian Society of Transplantation (CAST) that was held from November 27 to 30 in Cebu, the Philippines. Researchers from Taiwan attracted audience by presenting results on the impact of the amended Human Organ Transplant Act in Taiwan.

Taiwan’s Moral Advocacy Movement

TAICOT had advocated and urged Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan to amend Human Organ Transplant Act, which encourages organ donation while restricting organ trafficking and organ commercialism. In the oral presentation, TAICOT’s researcher Yuan-Chan LIU pointed out the rationale behind the amendment: “Taiwanese patients who seek overseas organ transplants have predominantly selected China. Transplant tourism from Taiwan to China began in the early 1990s and has progressed rapidly. 85% of Taiwan’s overseas kidney transplants are performed in China. However, in China, the lack of a transparent organ donation system, and probable procurement from living prisoners of conscience has raised ethical concerns for the organ sources.”

LIU quoted data from Prof. Manfred NOWAK, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, pointing out that 66% of the persecuted prisoners of conscience are Falun Gong practitioners. Dr. SHROFF also commented, “Every meeting I’ve been to in the last ten years, you have protests from the Falun Gong people. I think there has been a lot of pressure for China to stop this.”

Dr. Rose Marie O. ROSETE-LIQUETE, President of the Transplantation Society of the Philippines, also expressed concern for the opaque organ sources in China, stressing that “We discourage it [going to China for organ transplants], because they use allegedly executed prisoners. I’m against that also.”

International Concerns

In fact, the medical society has had concern for the issue since 2006. In March 2006, a formal employee at Liaoning Thrombus Treatment Center of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine exposed that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had procured organs from Falun Gong practitioners and cremated the corpses to destroy any evidence. Two months later, World Medical Association (WMA) swiftly adopted the “Council Resolution on Organ Donation in China,” demanding Chinese doctors not be involved in the removal or transplantation of organs from executed Chinese prisoners. Ten years later in April 2016, WMA reiterated this resolution, demanding the CCP to immediately stop using organs from prisoners.

Recently, the international community acted against transplant commercialism and non-transparent organ sources in China. In 2016, the United States House of Representatives and the European Parliament passed Resolution 343 and Written Declaration 48 respectively, condemning that the CCP has systematically procured organs for organ commerce from Falun Gong practitioners and other prisoners of conscious on the state level.

The Model for Asia

TAICOT’s presentation earned recognition and affirmation by professionals. Surgeons and professionals from the Philippines, Pakistan, India, Sir Lanka, Vietnam, Japan, and other Asian countries learned of the current status of transplantation in China and TAICOT’s work and efforts along the years at the booth.

Transplant experts from different countries enthusiastically signed the petition to call upon The Transplantation Society (TTS) to launch an independent investigation into the concealed truth about the ongoing transplant abuse in China. As the host country, Filipino surgeons seemed to constitute a significant share of the attendees. Many of them promptly signed the petition to support our cause to stop organ harvesting and unethical organ transplants. Two Filipino doctors encouraged our staff with spirited feedback, “The whole Transplantation Society of the Philippines supports you!”

Human Harvest First Screened in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan (Congress), Gov’t Urged to Implement Amended Human Organ Transplant Act

It’s been almost two and a half years since promulgation of the amended Human Organ Transplant Act of Taiwan on July 1, 2015. To commemorate Human Rights Day, TAICOT hosted the screening of Human Harvest in the Legislative Yuan on Dec. 8, 2017. Several legislators managed to arrive early at the venue and give remarks and interviews to express their generous support. Legislators CHANG LIAO Wan-Chien and HUNG Chun-Yi vowed to continue working with TAICOT for the cause in the legislature and push for substantial implementation, while Legislator GAO Jyh Peng stressed that Taiwan has the obligation to voice more and louder for those deprived and suppressed under the Chinese communist regime.

Human Harvest Screening

(From left to right) Taiwanese Legislators HUNG Chun-Yi, CHANG Hung-Lu, and CHANG LIAO Wan-Chien; TAICOT Legal Consultant Attorney Theresa CHU, Secretary-General Dr. Chian-Feng David HUANG, and Medical Consultant Dr. TING Kai-Ting.

During the two and a half years when TAICOT advocated for the amendment to Human Organ Transplant Act (“the Act”) in the legislature, with strong endorsement from then Legislator TIEN Chiu-chin (now Deputy Minister of Overseas Community Affairs Council) and Legislator YU Mei-Nu, the amendment eventually garnered cross-party support from altogether fifty-two legislators. In June 2015, the Third Reading of the amended Human Organ Transplant Act was finally completed and passed, effective as of July 1, 2015. The Act not only puts Taiwan in alignment with the latest international trends and among the most advanced legislating countries on transplant ethics, but also allows Taiwan to refrain from complicity with the Chinese regime in organ harvesting.

In his pre-screening speech, TAICOT’s Secretary-General Dr. Chian-Feng HUANG pointed out that the amended Act aims to create a mechanism at policy level to establish a better domestic organ donation system and to stop overseas organ transplants through the mandatory reporting system, sentences and penalties. Dr. HUANG also explained that the screening of Human Harvest is a great approach to let more doctors and people who are in need of transplantation be aware of the ongoing transplant abuse in China.

The amended Act requires both recipients and the hospitals for post-operative care in Taiwan to report the specific information of the overseas transplants such as country, hospital, surgeon, and organ site(s). The government may then conclude a list of the hospitals that perform organ transplants with opaque organ sources, thereby protecting the Taiwanese from being accomplice in the organ harvesting crime and ensuring the quality of medical treatment Taiwanese patients received.

TAICOT’s Legal Consultant Attorney Theresa CHU also explained the amended Act prohibits and criminalizes transplant tourism with sentences and penalties, and asked the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) to keep promoting such information among the public. Since still patients are going to Mainland China to buy organs and undergo organ transplants, MOHW is obligated to effectively and extensively promote the important provisions in the amended Act.

About Human Harvest

Chinese Canadian Director Leon LEE spent 8 years filming the documentary, which won the acclaimed 2014 Peabody Award upon its completion. The film recounts the process during which Nobel Peace Prize nominees David Matas and David Kilgour investigate the organ harvesting trade in China and uncover one of the world’s worst crimes against humanity. The profile page on the Peabody Award website sums it up: “For its exposé of highly profitable, monstrous system of forced organ donation, Human Harvest: China’s Illegal Organ Trade receives a Peabody Award.”

Human Harvest Screening

Miaoli County Council and TAICOT also jointly hosted a screening of Human Harvest for the first time on Dec. 6, 2017 to raise awareness of the issue. The event was well received by the local gentry, officials and residents alike, including a dozen of Miaoli County Councilors; Toufen City Mayor XU Ding-zhen; Division Chief GU Zhi-cheng of Medical Administration Division, Health Bureau; Chairman CHEN Zong-sheng, Association of Miaoli County Lifeline Corp. Besides, over two hundred Miaoli residents participated.

Korean TV Crew Risk Lives to Expose On-going Illegal Organ Transplants in China

The Program Department crew of TV Chosun, a subsidiary of South Korea’s largest newspaper The Chosunilbo, risked their lives investigating in China to produce the documentary, Kill to Live. TV Chosun broadcast the documentary in its program Investigation Report 7 1 in November 2017. The film reveals that about 20,000 South Korean patients have gone to China for organ transplants since 2000, on average around 2,000 per year in recent years. The program concludes from credible evidence and testimonies that the organs South Korean transplant patients received in China were mainly sourced from Chinese prisoners of conscience, especially Falun Gong practitioners, who are believed by many to be the most severely persecuted group. The film confirms that many hospitals are still performing organ transplantation for foreign patients. Further, the patented machine aimed at causing brain death—“Primary Brain Stem Injury Impact Apparatus 2”—invented by WANG Lijun (former Public Security Bureau Chief, Chongqing Municipal Government) was also exposed.

Human Harvest Screening

1 TV Chosun official website: http://vod.tvchosun.com/vod/3/C201700093/12791/vod.cstv

2 For more details on the collision machine, please see p. 87, “Summary Report on the Crime of Live Organ Harvesting in China”: http://www.upholdjustice.org/node/370, or p. 50 of its Chinese version at http://www.zhuichaguoji.org/cn/images/nationalcriminalreports/10831.pdf

Tianjin First Central Hospital, the Largest Transplant Center in China

The reporter from Investigation Report 7 went to the “T” hospital most popular among South Koreans (unspecified yet presumably the Oriental Organ Transplant Center of Tianjin First Central Hospital, judged from the images from the film) to conduct a secret on-site investigation. The reporter secretly filmed how organ transactions were carried out, how patients and their family obtained information regarding organ transplants, the reception procedures by the ethnic Korean nurse, the dialogue between a surgeon and the patient, etc. The chief surgeon in charge of the transplant team of T Hospital was introduced with an emphasis on “being trained in the United States.” The shortest waiting time is said to be only one week in 2017. Although the Chinese regime has banned transplants for foreigners before the Olympics since 2008, the Center, being the largest transplant center in China, explicitly targets South Koreans, Middle Easterners and a small number of other Asian patients, including Taiwanese.

Additional Donation to Move Up Priority

The Center also indicated bluntly that patients were supposed to donate additional money to the Center’s foundation besides the specified expenses if they want to have priority for transplant. A nurse told the reporter, “For some the waiting time is a week, while for others transplants may be performed within two days. It may take as long as one month or one and a half months, or as short as one week or a few days.” In the case of a kidney transplant, the total expense is 140 million Korean Won (US$131,771) plus an additional 100,000-yuan (US$15,478) donation.

Only Young Organs Are Chosen, Surgery Proceeds Around the Clock

When asked whether it was possible to choose organs from young people, the ethnic Korean nurse directly pointed out, “Organs from the elderly are not used. We also do our selection. From the patient’s point of view, they all want young and good organs. No one wants organs of the elderly.” The reporter captured the scenes where several operating rooms along the hallway were lit throughout the night and stacks of used surgical clothing kept piling up every day.

Morality Disintegrated

A Korean doctor promised, according to his patient, that he would ensure the patient’s post-operative care as long as he went to China for an organ transplant. When questioned by Investigation Report 7 about their knowledge of the opaque organ source, several doctors declined a formal interview. In addition, neither those surgeons who performed the transplants nor the patients were told the organ source. Such implementation completely violates the WHO Guiding Principles 10 and 11 on transparency and traceability. As the Chinese regime now claims the donor organs for their booming transplant industry draw upon nationwide voluntary organ donations, where have all these organs available on demand within such short waits come from? It is TAICOT’s stance that an open and transparent investigation into the matter by the international professional community be called for and that the Chinese regime should accept the investigation as soon as possible.

Abhorrent Brain-Death Machine

Jiefu HUANG, former Chinese Vice Minister of Health, claimed that most organs came from brain-dead patients but offered no explanation why there should be so many brain-dead patients eligible for donation. The documentary seemed to provide a shocking clue. In a visit to a research lab in Sichuan province, the lab staff confirmed the patented invention by former Public Security Bureau Chief WANG Lijun, “Primary Brain Stem Injury Impact Machine,” was meant to cause brain death.

The machine can render a “donor” brain-dead immediately, the reporter was told, while other organs remain vital so as to ensure efficiency in transplantation. The machine has now been developed to its third generation. The Investigation Report 7 crew made a model based on the blueprint of the machine. When consulted about the model, Dr. LI Chengyuan, President of the Korean Association on Ethical Organ Transplants, a non-governmental organization in South Korea, strongly argued, “the Primary Brain Stem Injury Impact Machine has no other use but to cause brain death for harvesting organs. Why would anyone want to cause brain death?”

Human Harvest Screening

Deal with the Devil

The reporter experienced difficulties landing interviews with the South Korean doctors involved in transplant referral. Many of them refused to talk. However, one doctor said, “As for transplants in China, the executed prisoners seem to be the issue. The executed prisoners are subjected to religious repression, which has become an international issue, also an ethical concern. Are they the executed prisoners or general inmates? ... That’s why we stopped afterwards.” In the end of the documentary, the host asked, “But what would you do when this organ is forcibly taken from living people?” A Chinese who was once a prisoner of conscience commented, “Do not deal with the devil, whether or not you believe in God.”

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Established in 2006 by a group of doctors and lawyers who share conviction in and enthusiasm for human dignity and moral integrity, Taiwan Association for International Care of Organ Transplants (TAICOT) has been dedicated to issues related to medical ethics as well as organ donation and transplantation in Taiwan and around the world.

With sustained efforts, we successfully advocated the amendment to Taiwan’s Human Organ Transplant Act in 2015, with which Taiwan becomes the first in Asia to criminalize transplant tourism, thereby effectively strengthening Taiwan’s response to organ trafficking.

We also continue to engage different communities via various reach-out projects, including hosting film screenings and panel discussions, participating and exhibiting in domestic and international medical conferences, giving speeches, and issuing publications.

We look forward to opportunities to work with allies to end organ trafficking and restore the fundamental rights and essential ethical values to all mankind.

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