A large group of activist doctors have been nominated for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for raising awareness, especially within the medical community, of unethical organ transplant practices in China.
Representing 7,000 medical professionals, Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH) have been bringing attention to gross violations of medical transplant ethics in China and other regions for a decade.
One of the doctors from DAFOH, Dr. Damon Noto, said that they welcome the publicity that the Nobel Peace Prize nomination will bring to the issue. “It gets the word out about what’s happening in China with forced organ donation and transplants,” Dr. Noto told the Winnipeg Free Press.
“They’ll keep on doing it until someone makes them look so bad they’ll stop,” he said.
The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in December.
According to DAFOH, China conducts the second-highest number of organ transplants per country per year. The group points out that the country has no sufficient public organ donation program or organ distribution system. Chinese people also have a cultural aversion to donation, says the group.
“China is the only nation on earth that has used its military and civilian hospital systems, in coordination with its judiciary and prison systems, to systematically supply organs from non-consenting prisoners of conscience to fuel a lucrative transplant tourism industry,” said DAFOH’s executive director, Dr. Torsten Trey, in a statement.
The largest source for the organs among the prisoners of conscience are Falun Gong practitioners, says the group.
“We understand that the forced organ harvesting from detained Falun Gong practitioners as the primary victims of this crime against humanity is an extraordinary, unprecedented form of evil,” says the DAFOH on their website.
“We hope that ending the forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners will also terminate this unethical practice from other minority groups subject to this crime in China: Uighurs, Tibetans, and House Christians,” it said.
In this video from DAFOH, Dr. Noto provides testimony for a hearing before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs regarding Forced Organ Harvesting by Religious and Political Dissidents by the Chinese Communist Party:
Speaking to Winnipeg Free Press, Dr. Noto gave some of the credit for the group’s nomination to the work of two Canadians — human rights lawyer David Matas and former MP David Kilgour — who published a widely publicized report in 2006 on state sanctioned organ harvesting allegations in China.
“Based on our further research, we are reinforced in our original conclusion that the allegations are true. We believe that there has been, and continues today, to be large scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners,” said the report’s conclusion.
“Their vital organs, including kidneys, livers, corneas, and hearts, were seized involuntarily for sale at high prices, sometimes to foreigners, who normally face long waits for voluntary donations of such organs in their home countries,” the report added.
In 2010, Matas and Kilgour were also nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for their research into forced organ harvesting in China.
Official estimates say Chinese hospitals conduct 10,000 transplants per year, but journalist and researcher Ethan Guttman believes the real figure is three times that amount.
Despite growing awareness of organ harvesting in China, only three countries — Israel, Spain, and Taiwan — have made transplant tourism a crime or not reimbursable by medical insurance.
Professor Katrina Bramstedt of Bond University in Australia, told ABC radio that the world’s leaders are not willing to deal with Beijing over organ harvesting because it involves trade concerns.
“It’s the dollar signs… The dollar bills, currency are what open and make relationships between countries, and other things often take a back seat,” said Prof. Bramstedt in an interview last year.
“Other things being human rights, other things being morality and ethics, and the right thing to do. The dollar often reigns supreme, and I think we see that even in situations of medicine,” she said.
Watch this short documentary by Swoop Films about the persecution of Falun Gong: