China 'harvesting prisoners' organs before they’ve been declared dead,' Australian study claims

6 April 2022, 14:19

China denies the practice of illegal organ harvesting
China denies the practice of illegal organ harvesting. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Surgeons in China are suspected of removing organs from living prisoners before they've been declared dead, according to new Australian research.

A study by the Australian National University, published in the American Journal of Transplantation, examined thousands of medical papers and found certified causes of death did not align with the medical procedures that the patients underwent.

Prisoners' hearts were harvested from their chests before they were declared brain dead - to be given to transplant recipients.

The authors of the study said Chinese official records stated the prisoners were brain dead prior to surgeries, but that was impossible because in the transplant cases the declaration of death was made before the prisoner's breathing ability was assessed by machine.

The study's authors - ANU PhD researcher Matthew Robertson and Israeli cardiac transplant surgeon Jacob Lavee said physicians played an 'active role' in the process.

"This evidence suggests that the donors’ organs were procured before they could have been properly diagnosed as brain dead," said Dr Lavee.

Researchers found 71 suspected heart-removal deaths in 56 hospitals where 'brain death could not be declared' involving more than 300 medical workers across China.

Researcher Mr Robertson said: "In these cases, the removal of the heart during organ procurement must have been the proximate cause of the donor's death."

"Because these organ donors could have only been prisoners, our finding strongly suggest that physicians in the People's Republic of China have participated in executions by organ removal", he added.

Mr Robertson and Dr Lavee believe the true number of unethical surgical deaths in China is much higher. 

China denies engaging in the practice, but the authors of the study say it has been going on for more than three decades.

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