Reporter: Michael Edwards
MARK COLVIN: Australia has one of the
lowest rates of organ donation in the developed world. The people who had kidney
transplants in New South Wales last year, for example, had waited an average of
eight years for a suitable organ.
That’s the kind of pressure that’s created
the new phenomenon of "transplant tourism", with patients going to countries
like India and China for their operations.
Last year an Australian report
highlighted the rate of HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis in patients who’d had such operations
Now a report from Canada says most of the organs in China are
not donated at all. They’re taken from political prisoners who die after the organs
are literally harvested from them.
Transplant doctors in Australia are
alarmed and are calling for more Government controls on patients travelling to
Michael Edwards has this report.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: Much is
made about China’s booming economy. It’s now known as a manufacturer of electronics,
cars and other high tech products.
But observers says there’s one burgeoning
market that’s making them feel queasy. This is the harvesting of human organs
Chinese hearts, lungs, livers and corneas are in demand
with western patients frustrated with long waiting queues in their home countries.
In the years 1994 to 1999 the nation performed 19,000 transplants. Since 2000
this has skyrocketed to more than 60,000.
The new human rights report alleges
the increase in organ availability can be attributed to one fact: the execution
of Falun Gong practitioners detained by the Chinese Government, who are then quite
literally harvested for parts.
DAVID KILGOUR: We can explain about 18,000
of the total number of transplants since 2000, in terms of things like prisoner
executions and brain dead people and volunteered donations, although those are
very, very small in the Chinese culture.
But there are about 41,500 that
we think are in all likelihood coming from live human beings who are basically
killed on the spot, on demand if you like, so that somebody from Australia or
Canada or China can have a new kidney. And this has got to be a new crime against
humanity, for a new century.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: David Kilgour is a former
Canadian government minister. He co-authored the report.
China began its
crackdown on Falun Gong in 1999. Since then it’s a known fact thousands have been
detained at detention camps across China known as Lao Gai.
The report alleges
some victims are given drugs to induce heart failure. It also contains accounts
of victims having their organs removed while still alive.
The going rate
for a Chinese heart is $US 150,000 and a lung will set you back up to $170,000.
Advertising is done via word of mouth and on the internet.
They literally say that, you come down here we’ve got, one case says, we’ve got
five or six young people, in their 40s, men, hanging around. You can come down
and kind of choose your victim.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: Australian transplant
doctors estimate dozens, mostly from the expatriate Chinese community, travel
to China for operations each year.
DAVID KILGOUR: The benefit of going
to China is a speedy kidney transplant, whereas in Australia it may be necessary
to wait three or four years to have a kidney transplant because we only have 200
organ donors a year in Australia, for a population of 20 million. China has a
very much higher donation rate.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: Dr Daryl Wall is one of
Australia’s top transplant surgeons. He works at Princess Alexandra Hospital in
Brisbane. He says the practice of using political detainees for organ harvesting
is well known in the medical community.
DARYL WALL: We understand in international
transplant associations, that the expansion of capital punishment has contributed
significantly to the rate of organ donation in mainland China.
EDWARDS: So what would you be telling Australian patients?
We advise them to be patient and stay with the Australian system for two reasons.
One is that we’re not absolutely confident that the guidelines that we’d
apply would apply there, so that they may end up with less well matched tissue
which requires more immunosuppression, which is more harmful to the recipient.
And there’s also a concern about screening for diseases which may come
from the donor.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: Not to mention the human rights implications.
DARYL WALL: Absolutely. That’s right. The strong view of the International
Transplantation Society is that organs can be donated by strangers, they can be
donated by friends, but it must be done in the most ethical and defendable fashion.
MICHAEL EDWARDS: Dr Wall says the Australian Government should be doing
more to educate Australians about the real costs of Chinese transplants.
Chinese Government has completely rejected the report, telling PM, it’s flawed,
fabricated and completely unreliable.
MARK COLVIN: Michael Edwards with
Original article date: 10/July/2006
Category: Media Report