An article published in the British Medical Journal – BMJ (April 13, 2021) about organ transplantation in China reports the scientific community and bioethicists’ concerns about the systematical violation of human rights in China. The heading says, “Harrowing but credible allegations indicate crimes against humanity in forced organ harvesting at scale from prisoners of conscience, writes Adnan Sharif. Medical journals should avoid potential complicity until China shows such claims to be false”.

In China it is pretended to put Chinese scientific research at the top of biomedical research worldwide. Indeed several peer-reviewed studies have been published in scientific journals in the last years, marking steps to reach the Government’s aim. The aforementioned article entitled “Why journals should stop publishing transplantation research from China” proposed an international limitation of such publications in a topic where medical Chinese researchers appear to be more implicated: organ transplantation.

The article gives an up-to-date of the last information on organs transplant from independent sources to answer the aforementioned question. In this respect, we have published several articles with consistent information about the violation of basic human rights in developing the greatest organ transplant system in the world (read China breached international criminal law. Organs are harvested from political prisoners and HERE).

organ transplantation in ChinaSeveral issues related to medical research and the use of humans in trials and other experiments are largely secret. We excerpt from the BMJ article wrote by the renowned British scientist specialized in organ transplant Adnan Sharif (read more HERE) what we think of special bioethical interest.

Quoting a preview scientific study, the author says that organ donation and transplantation are top secrets in China. The official statistics of the subject are “sparse, invalidated, and have been systematically falsified.”

The article continues with the inexplicable contradiction of the same official data regarding the number of transplants performed and the registered donors’ transplantations.

The prestigious author opinion based on peer review articles is that “[…] evidence of a vast infrastructure of facilities and staff dedicated to big volume solid organ transplantation indicates that organ donation and transplantation activity far exceed China’s official figures, with estimates of up to 90,000 transplants a year.  The Tianjin First Center Hospital alone, for example, has boasted that its 46,000 m2 organ transplant center had over 500 beds, enough for thousands of transplants a year. Sharif continues, “In addition, hospitals’ claims of improbably short waiting times, and reports of transplants scheduled in advance, could indicate organs available on demand. This is possible with deceased donors only if the timing of death is known or planned. Multiple prisoners of conscience eyewitnesses have described non-indicated medical testing and imaging consistent with organ donation requirements, corroborated by statements from whistle-blower healthcare staff.” Sarif also detailed technical analysis of several aspects of the transplantation – organ donation Chinese system that clearly suggest a source of fresh organs from other than the official registered meager figures. We suggest our readers read the full of Sarif’s rigorous analysis (read HERE).

Medical journals should decline translational or clinical transplantation research from China

The article continues analysis with the subtitle “Research could be unethical,” reporting that already many journals have policies refusing transplantation research that uses organs from executed prisoners but “more than 90% of 445 Chinese transplant-related studies published between 2000-2017 failed to conform to these policies, researchers found, warning journals of “complicity and moral hazard.” Some journals subsequently retracted some of these papers.”

We excerpt the full conclusion because of its relevant bioethical content.

“Concerns have been raised about illegal transplantation or transplant tourism in other countries, including Egypt, India, and the Philippines. But none are as opaque as China, which is unique for the allegations of state-sanctioned mass forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience. Until independent investigators are allowed unhindered access for a thorough inspection of organ donation and transplantation activity in China, we cannot accept unsubstantiated claims of reform.”

Sharif ends the article with a strong appeal to the scientific community to make a “robust international response rather than flaccid engagement. Until practice in the country can be ethically assured, medical journals should decline translational or clinical transplantation research from China, especially when deceased organ donors are used.”

Bioethical assessment

Our Bioethics Observatory considers Sarif’s analysis is based on consistent rigorous data that deserves the strong measures he appeals to scientific journals do. Several scientific journals have recently actualized their requirements for publication with an emphasis in the respect of ethical principles which undoubtedly include complicity with researchers who use harvesting organs from political prisoners in their studies.

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