healthHealth and Medicine

Western Companies Are Implicated In China's Harvesting Of Prisoner Organs, Says New Report


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockDec 13 2019, 12:42 UTC


China is continuing to harvest organs from executed prisoners, including some political prisoners and persecuted minority groups, to fuel the country’s growing transplantation trade. While an international backlash is starting to build up momentum, a new report accuses many in the West of being complicit in these ghastly practices. 

The report, titled “The Economics Of Organ Harvesting In China”, argues that numerous Western medical and pharmaceutical companies are profiting from their links with forced organ harvesting in China.


Some of the Western links to organ harvesting are subtle and often implicit, such as selling the immunosuppressive drugs or medical equipment necessary to perform the operations. However, as the authors of the report note, China’s transplant system is effectively dependent on the import of devices for organ preservation from multi-billion-dollar corporations like Pfizer (US) and Roche (Switzerland). 

“These companies are in a very powerful position because China’s transplant industry would falter without them. It is imperative they withdraw from China immediately to help save innocent people who are being killed for their organs,” Susie Hughes, executive director of the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC), stated in an emailed press release.

Furthermore, the report accuses some of these companies and research institutions of testing their transplant drugs in China under circumstances that might not have met widely accepted ethical standards.

There is also the issue of organized “transplant tourism.” While individuals often organize this themselves, a significant number of transplant tourists going to China use the services of brokers, hospitals, or private companies. The report highlights 20 countries – including the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia – that have sent medical tourists to China for organ transplants. According to the statistics cited by the report, at least 97 patients in the US withdrew from waiting lists and went to China for a transplant between 2000 and 2006. 


China has insisted it stopped the practice of forced organ harvesting from prisoners in 2015. However, a major new report released in June 2019 concluded they are "certain, unanimously, and sure beyond reasonable doubt" that China has been carrying out the forced harvesting of organs from prisoners “on a significant scale." 

All in all, the organ transplant trade could earn China over $1 billion per year.

"The report sets out compelling evidence that several multinational companies are complicit in transplant abuse in China where prisoners of conscience are killed for their organs," notes Dr David Matas, an international human rights lawyer and expert witness who testified at the China Tribunal. "This complicity violates the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The national contact points responsible for the Guidelines should be engaged in each of the countries where these countries are headquartered to address this complicity." 

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