Friday, June 3, 2022

Organ transplants and capital punishment don't go well together

 I recently blogged about a paper by Robertson and Lavee in the American Journal of Transplantation, looking at surgeries conducted in China before 2015, a period in which China acknowledged that most transplants there were conducted with organs from executed prisoners.  Now they summarize their report in a column in the WSJ.

In China, New Evidence That Surgeons Became Executioners. Clinical reports recount scores of cases in which organ donors were alive when operations began.  By Jacob Lavee and Matthew P. Robertson

"The Wuhan doctors write: “When the chest of the donor was opened, the chest wall incision was pale and bloodless, and the heart was purple and beating weakly. But the heartbeat became strong immediately after tracheal intubation and oxygenation. The donor heart was extracted with an incision from the 4th intercostal sternum into the chest. . . . This incision is a good choice for field operation where the sternum cannot be sawed open without power.”

"By casually noting that the donor was connected to a ventilator (“tracheal intubation”) only at midsurgery, the physicians inadvertently reveal that the donor was alive when the operation began.


"Our findings end in 2015, but we think the abuse likely continues. Medical papers like those we studied were first unearthed by Chinese grass-roots investigators in late 2014, and it would have been simple to command journals to stop publishing the incriminating details after that. While China claims to have stopped using prisoners in 2015, our previous research raises doubts. In a 2019 paper in the journal BMC Medical Ethics, we used statistical forensics to show that the official voluntary-organ donation numbers were falsified, inflating the success of a modest voluntary organ-donation reform program used to buttress the reform narrative.

"Global medical leaders have largely dismissed such concerns. The World Health Organization took advice from Chinese transplant surgeons in the establishment of its anti-organ-trafficking task force—and then installed them on the membership committee. In 2020, WHO officials joined long-time apologists for China’s transplant system, attacking our previous research showing falsified numbers."


"Dr. Lavee is the director of the Heart Transplantation Unit at Tel Aviv’s Sheba Medical Center and a professor of surgery at Tel Aviv University. Mr. Robertson is a research fellow with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and a doctoral candidate in political science at the Australian National University."

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