Doctors in China jailed for harvesting organs from patients
Six people in China, four of whom are doctors, have been sentenced to prison for illegally harvesting organs from patients, often car accident victims or those with severe brain damage. A court in Anhui province has handed down terms of 10 to 28 months to the group of six, declaring them guilty of harvesting organs from 11 deceased patients, according to Chinese state media. The detailed judgment, issued in July but made public only now, described a network of doctors from different hospitals who worked together on the organ harvesting scheme. After identifying potential candidates, the doctors would then approach patients’ families and ask them to sign fraudulent consent forms agreeing to organ donation on behalf of their deceased relatives. Families, however, believed they were signing legitimate papers. Operations to remove the organs were performed by the doctors in delivery vans disguised as an ambulance, according to state media. China has long struggled to manage voluntary organ donation and experts have said that there isn’t enough to meet demand. Human rights experts have long drawn attention to the practice of harvesting organs from prisoners, including political dissidents who have been put behind bars, in order to supply a lucrative organ trade. Last year, an independent tribunal in the UK led by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, concluded that China was a “criminal state,” which “beyond reasonable doubt” had committed crimes of humanity, acts of torture, and found that enemies of the state were medically tested and killed for their organs. The China Tribunal heard evidence over six months, and in a judgement that took one-and-a-half hours to read, concluded that followers of Falun Gong, a religious spiritual practice, were among those used as a source for forced organ harvesting. The finding also said there was a risk Uighurs, an ethnic Muslim minority persecuted by the Chinese state, have suffered similar treatment. Last year, a study published in BMC Medical Ethics journal found “highly compelling evidence” that China was falsifying organ donation numbers, potentially masking the source and fueling further concern that transplants were still coming from prisoners. In 2005, former health minister Huang Jiefu publicly acknowledged that China had indeed harvested organs for transplant from executed prisoners. Beijing, however, has long denied doing so.