A paper published this week in a highly respected medical journal alleges that doctors in China are executing prisoners for the state through organ-harvesting operations.
The American Journal of Transplantation discussed the process of killing by organ retrieval in violation of the “dead donor rule” in “Execution by Organ Procurement: Breaching the Dead Donor Rule in China.”
The paper begins by observing two primary rules applicable to all doctors through the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm.” First, doctors are subject to the dead donor rule, which bans the harvesting of organs from living humans. Second, doctors are prohibited from participating in the execution of prisoners.
However, almost all organ donations in China are made by prisoners, leading to concerns that in specific cases the doctor harvesting an organ was also a prisoner’s executioner. The researchers who wrote the paper reviewed papers by surgeons in China conducting organ harvesting procedures.
The authors identified 71 papers involving cases between 1980 and 2015 in which evidence indicated organ removal as the cause of death. In each of those cases, the surgery precluded a “legitimate determination of brain death.” They were able to determine that the use of intubation procedures in certain ways would eliminate brain death prior to surgery.
China stopped doctors from writing papers of the type studied after 2015. The researchers found that could have been because the government stopped using prisoners as organ “donors.” It could be more likely that exposure of “dead donor rule” violations by human rights groups caused Chinese officials to become even more secretive about the procedures.
The paper also found that China performs more organ transplant procedures than any other country in the world. Hospitals in China advertise transplant waiting times in terms of weeks, whereas in the U.S. and the rest of the world the wait times are measured in months or years. Chinese advertises to international “transplant tourists” on websites published in English, Russian, and Arabic.
Some modern utilitarian bioethicists are now suggesting that legalized euthanasia will lead to organ removal becoming an accepted means of inducing death. Prisoners would likely be considered to be in a position that would prohibit knowing consent to such a procedure. However, doctors who are also unable to withhold their consent to perform unethical procedures in places like China could lead to even greater levels of inhuman atrocities.