For years China has been criticized by various human rights groups for its traffic in human organs for transplants. Reports indicate that organ availability for transplant far exceeds the number of Chinese volunteer organ donors, a number far less than a few thousand in a country of over 1.4 billion people.
Despite the world-wide organ shortage, Chinese nationals, for various reasons, do not typically sign up to be organ donors. In 1984, China passed a resolution that permitted the marketing of human organs from capital criminals who volunteered to donate upon their execution and to transplant organs taken from executed prisoners whose bodies were unclaimed.
Though this may seem ghoulish, China has been implicated by many reliable sources to be supplying the global demand for organ transplants that far exceeds those supplied by these “legal” sources. The global demand for organs is high given that in most countries where organ donation is practiced there are profound shortages of available organs for transplant, hence long waiting periods by prospective recipients. China is known in the organ transplant world for its supply of organs, very short waiting periods, and the good tissue matches.
What is the source of this abundance of organs that fuels China’s lucrative transplant industry? The Washington Post recently reported that nearly 100,000 organs are made available for transplant in China each year. With the going rate of over $150,000 per transplant, the Chinese transplant industry may be as high as $20 billion. It turns out that certain undesirable dissident groups — kept as prisoners — have been exploited for their organs, especially the Falun Gong Buddhist sect (66% of the total) and the Muslim minority groups of northwestern China such as the Uyghurs (11%) and Kazakhs. Other dissidents such as Tibetans, Rights Defenders, and undesirable sex workers make up the bulk of the remaining supply, according to the 2006 Report of the United Nations Rapporteur. The numbers involve tens of thousands of executed people annually from a base of perhaps a million incarcerated prisoners. Adding to this is the alleged practice by Chinese harvesters of blood typing and typing live prisoners for human leukocyte antigens (HLA, those protein markers that are needed to ensure proper tissue match to prevent organ rejection by the recipient).
Steven Mosher, an expert on China and the president of the Population Research Institute, tells LifeSiteNews that victims are executed when a client, typically from the West, registers for an organ. Transplant surgery is often scheduled before the patient arrives in China, suggesting that the surgeons already have the organ or will have the organ immediately available. The victims are prepared pharmaceutically, often paralyzed, then the organs are taken — often while the victim is alive — to ensure maximum organ viability. The bodies then can be kept on oxygen and life support to preserve the remaining organs. In this way the victim’s organs can be used later for other patients, maximizing the profits.
Who knows about this? Just about everyone who you would think matters. Wikipedia lists the parliaments of Canada and the European Union, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, the World Medical Association, and the American Society of Transplantation — all have called China to account for their diabolical transplantation practices. The Chinese deny it all. However, the supply and demand remain.
The issue is one that goes beyond China’s horrendous transplant policies and practices. Suppose the need for human transplants was eliminated? Very likely, in the not too distant biotechnical future, a ready supply of organs will be incubated in factories, or obtained from genetically modified animals, or from animal/human chimeras developed from mixing and blending stem cells. All of these are being developed in capable countries across the globe, including the United States. Although ethics boards often exist to monitor concerns, they typically lack adequate moral and philosophical commitments that could head off human disasters.
The official atheism of China is plainly inadequate to generate a repudiation of the nation’s transplant practices, the widespread philosophical materialism of the West can at best only generate a preference for a more humane life-respecting approach. The current condition of the cultural West bars it from any true moral high ground. So, as a result, we continue to abort unwanted babies, dissect embryos, make embryos for research while others distribute the parts of their victims, not to mention the growing interest in euthanasia. All under the pretext to avoid suffering of some more “privileged” person.
Christianity teaches a different way. Never are the weakest, the powerless, or the most disadvantaged required to sacrifice on behalf of the privileged. Instead the most powerful, the most capable, the most advantaged, are asked to sacrifice for the most vulnerable.
Jesus Christ offered the ultimate example of this. The value of the human as an image bearer of God (Imago Dei) provides the moral high ground for the true dissident against the anti-human practices that are sweeping the globe.
In that respect, too, China is an interesting case study. With Christianity in China approaching (if not exceeding) 10% of the population, involving many courageous voices, the horrendous transplant practices of communist China may eventually come under a criticism that will bring about life-affirming positive change.
With the declining influence of Christianity in the West, we need to remind our culture of better ways that will avoid the current life-threatening trajectory of death. Modern biotechnology has the potential to provide humanity with almost unimaginable benefits but without an understanding provided by a Biblical sense of human life and the Created Order, the trajectory is bleak.