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Sever links with bad actors in organ trafficking, medics urged

04 May 2022 / ethics Print

Sever links with organ traffickers, medics urged

Global Rights Compliance has published a world-first report examining the role of Western medical professionals and institutions in unethical organ transplantation, organ trafficking, and forced organ harvesting – the act of killing a person for their organs.

The Legal Advisory Report, published by international human-rights law firm Global Rights Compliance, considers legal responsibilities in preventing complicity in grave human-rights abuses, including crimes against humanity.

A state-backed organ harvesting programme in China is estimated to have a market value of $1 billion per annum.

Severe risk of complicity

The report highlights the severe risk of medical institutions being complicit in international crimes, as well as exploring mounting evidence on the state-sanctioned regime of forced organ harvesting in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and the killing of prisoners of conscience for that purpose.

The advisory report, entitled ‘Do No Harm: Mitigating Human Rights Risks When Interacting with International Medical Professionals and Institutions in Transplantation Medicine’, states that “entering and/or maintaining relationships with Chinese institutions entails the highest risk of complicity in international crimes”.

The report outlines the systematic act of forced organ harvesting. It found that the widespread practice, together with other criminal acts committed by the government of the PRC, constitute crimes against humanity.

Active collaborations

Despite the China Tribunal’s final judgment, medics worldwide are still actively collaborating with China in transplant medicine, research, training and funding, or considering future collaborations. 

The China Tribunal judgment found in March 2020 that China’s state-sanctioned regime of forced organ harvesting amounted to crimes against humanity, and in particular against groups such as Falun Gong.

The report says a “lethal cocktail of those who are either unknowingly complicit, knowingly complicit or ‘wilfully blind’ prevails”.

Credible information

Last June, UN Special Rapporteurs confirmed receipt of credible information that detainees from ethnic, linguistic or religious minorities may be forcibly subjected to blood tests and organ examinations without consent. The organs mostly likely harvested through this state-sanctioned regime include hearts, kidneys, livers, corneas, and, less commonly, parts of livers.

Ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities such as Uyghurs, Tibetans, Muslims, Christians, as well as Falun Gong, are held in detention centres in different locations,  to enable the practice.

Forced organ harvesting depends upon the support of a range of medical facilitators.

Accordingly, medical institutions and professionals are now called on to consider the legal ramifications of medical relationships with those who may engage in unethical organ transplantation, trafficking, or forced organ harvesting.

Other high-risk countries

Maintaining relationships with Chinese institutions entails the highest risk of complicity in international crimes, but medical institutions need also consider their relationships with other high-risk countries, such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Lebanon and Egypt, the report points out.

Work in transplantation medicine must be governed by clear human rights due-diligence policies and procedures with respect to any activities overseas, the authors say.

Medical institutions and auxiliary entities are required to meaningfully engage with relevant stakeholders and human-rights experts to effectively understand the most prevalent risks. Failure to do so could otherwise result in processes that do not adequately capture all the risks of organ trafficking or forced organ harvesting. 

Considering international human-rights obligations, the Legal Advisory Report calls for immediate action to address any links to forced organ harvesting, and to genuinely respect human rights in their own activities and their medical relationships.

Minimum due-diligence processes

Supplementary policy guidance shows how those involved can develop, implement and evaluate minimum human rights due-diligence processes to avoid contributing to human-rights abuses and complicity in international crimes.

It includes illustrative approaches, including minimum enquiries that must be made to assess whether relationships with institutions may cause, contribute to, or be linked to unethical organ transplantation, organ trafficking or forced organ harvesting.

Wayne Jordash QC, managing partner at Global Rights Compliance said: “Unfortunately the transplantation community can be complicit in unethical organ transplantation practices, often unknowingly.

“The medical community must join in the global effort to stamp out all types of unethical organ sourcing. Together, this trade in human misery must be stopped.”

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland