St Louis Post Dispatch (USA): Organ trade in China raises alarm over human rights By Deborah L. Shelton ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH [Copied] (2006/8, 總訪問量:1750)
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St Louis Post Dispatch (USA): Organ trade in China raises alarm over human rights



By Deborah L. Shelton
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sunday, Aug. 20 2006

 


In 2001, Huagui Li was arrested in southern China for handing out banned
literature.

For that crime, she could have become one of thousands of Chinese reportedly rounded up every year and killed for their organs.

She says she was tortured repeatedly at a women's labor camp, and one day with about 500 other detainees, was taken to a hospital for a physical examination that included extensive medical tests.

Her high blood pressure probably saved her life, she says. It made her
ineligible to become an organ donor. Her jailers later released her.

Li, 62, a mathematics teacher for 30 years in China, now lives with her son and daughter-in-law in Maryland Heights.

As transplant lists grow longer, more Americans are traveling to China for
organs. The trend alarms ethicists and U.S. doctors concerned about the human rights of donors and the health and safety of recipients.

China has long depended on executed prisoners for organs. Now, human rights groups and others say the communist government is harvesting organs from living prisoners, targeting followers of Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline which Li practices.

Li's daughter-in-law, Yi Liu, translated for her as she told her story last
week at the Ethical Society of St. Louis.

"As we speak now," she said, bursting into tears, "somewhere on the other side of the Earth, someone is put on a table and their organs are being removed."

Falun Gong is grounded in the principles of truthfulness, compassion and
tolerance. It incorporates slow-motion exercise and meditation. Li was arrested for distributing pamphlets about the group, which was banned in China in 1999.

She says all of the women rounded up that day at the camp were followers of Falun Gong. She was later released after renouncing the practice, she said.

China and back

It's unclear how many Americans go overseas for transplants, but anecdotal reports indicate the numbers are rising.

As of Friday, almost 93,000 Americans were waiting for an organ transplant. During the first five months of this year, about 12,000 transplants were performed in the United States.

Dr. Jeffrey Crippin, president of the American Society of Transplantation, said fear of dying on the waiting list is leading to "desperate measures by
desperate people." Crippin is medical director of the liver transplant program at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

Chinese transplant services seeking foreigners with money are easy to find on the Internet.

New Life Global Medical Service Ltd. tells potential patients not to ask where donated organs come from.

"If you are simply seeking political correctness or media value, please look no further," reads the Web site for the Shanghai-based service, which is rife with typos and misspellings. "We do not have detail regarding the source of organs."

Some Americans have spoken openly about their Chinese transplants.

Eric De Leon of San Mateo, Calif., had nine tumors on his liver and was
unresponsive to chemotherapy when his doctors concluded that his chances for survival were low, even with a new liver. He was removed from the U.S. transplant list as required by national eligibility rules.

He got a second mortgage on his house and went to Shanghai.

"Are we ashamed of what we did? No, we are not," his wife, Lori, said on their blog, Transplant Tales: China and Back. "We did what we needed to do, and we did everything legally."

The going rates for organs at China International Organ Transplant Center are $62,000 for a kidney, $98,000 to $130,000 for a liver, $150,000 to $170,000 for a lung transplant and $130,000 to $160,000 for a heart.

The Chinese government acknowledges that death row prisoners are the source of most of the organs in China, which ranks second after the United States in the number of transplants performed worldwide.

Physicians directly involved in the surgeries, human rights groups and State Department officials have confirmed that organs are offered for sale and come from prisoners, sometimes while they are alive.

A former member of the Canadian Parliament co-authored an independent report last month that concluded: "We believe there has been and continues today to be large-scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners."

The report said the source of about 41,500 organ transplants between 2000 and 2005 was unexplained.

The Aug. 4 British Medical Journal reported that an estimated 8,000 kidneys, 3,700 livers and 80 hearts were transplanted in China last year, which included transplants for patients from overseas.

The Chinese government announced new regulations that took effect last month that would ban the sale and purchase of transplant organs and require written consent from donors.

Human rights groups are skeptical about enforcement of the law because of widespread corruption and the high profitability of organs.

Calls to the Chinese Embassy in Washington for comment were not returned. But Chinese officials previously have said the Canadian report regarding Falun Gong practitioners was based on false allegations and rumors and called its conclusions "groundless and biased."

Dr. Wenyi Wang, a New York pathologist, visited St. Louis last week as part of a national speaking tour to raise awareness about organ transplants from imprisoned Falun Gong followers. She made international news in April when she shouted at Chinese President Hu Jintao during a White House ceremony and was arrested. She was covering the event for a Chinese newspaper.

The misdemeanor charges were later dropped. She is a practitioner of Falun Gong.

Wang acknowledges that the average American might find the atrocities she describes hard to believe.

"This country has a fundamental principle of freedom," said Wang, 47, who moved to the United States from China in 1985. "People in the West have a basic  understanding of respect for life. The Communist Party has no respect for human rights or human life."

An estimated 100 million Chinese practice Falun Gong, and Wang said 50,000 to 60,000 are currently missing.

"I think more people standing up makes a difference," said Wang, a physician who holds a doctorate in pharmacology, physiology and neurobiology from the University of Chicago. "I feel that the more people see what's going on, they will know it's not something the Chinese people want."

No to transplant tourism

Last month, officials at United Network for Organ Sharing issued a statement, for the first time, objecting to transplant tourism, in which patients travel abroad to buy an organ in exploitative situations.

United Network for Organ Sharing oversees the nation's transplant system under a contract with the federal government.

The network said transplant tourism offers no transparency for the recipient to know the donor's circumstances or the risk of disease transmission from the donor.

Dr. Ira Kodner, a colorectal surgeon and director of the Washington University Center for the Study of Ethics and Human Values, calls transplant tourism in China "a totally and purely vicious enterprise, where people all over the world desperate to have an organ go to buy an organ. . . . The whole thing is terrifying."

Crippin said doctors discourage travel to countries such as China, but it's a sensitive situation.

"No transplant professional is going to stand in front of the proverbial train and say, 'No, you can't go,'" he said. "By the same token, patients need to understand that decisions like this do carry risk."

Dr. Dale A. Distant, chief of transplantation at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, said patients who go overseas tend to have higher complication rates, usually infections at the incision site that don't heal properly.

Dr. W. Ben Vernon provided care for a patient who developed a progressive, irreversible disease of the central nervous system after his Chinese transplant in 2004. He won't do it again.

"The only way we, as a profession, are going to get a handle on this is to stop taking care of patients when they come back," said Vernon, medical director of Centura Transplant Services at Porter Adventist Hospital in Denver. "When they come back from China demanding that I take care of them, I feel like I am being exploited, because where was their conscience in letting someone be executed so they could get a kidney? I don't have a professional responsibility to take care of them when they are thinking like that."

Distant said about 15 patients currently being seen at his center have gotten kidney transplants abroad, mostly in India and Pakistan.

"What is alleged to go on in China is really terrible," he said. "I draw the
comparison to Nazi Germany."