Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Stop transplant tourism: surgeon

A leading Israeli surgeon has called on patients in his country to stop travelling to China for transplant surgery.

Dr Jacob Lavee, director of the heart transplant unit at the Sheba Medical Center, said 90 percent of transplant organs in China had been taken from executed prisoners without consent.

According to a 29 October report on the Israeli news website Ynetnews, Dr Lavee described transplants performed in China as "crimes against humanity" in a special survey published in the medical journal Harefua.

The rate of organ donation is very low in Israel, up to half the rate in Europe and the United States.

About half of Israeli patients on waiting lists travel overseas for surgery as a result of the shortage of available organs. Most travel to China.

Dr Lavee said: "It goes without saying that the distress of patients in Israel waiting for transplants is great, but one's distress doesn't justify committing a crime on another."

The Harefua article quoted a Chinese doctor who sought political refuge in the United States.

Dr Wang Guayoki testified before a House of Representatives committee that he had removed skin and corneas from more than 100 executed prisoners in China.

He said the prisoners were given an injection to prevent their blood from clotting and perserve their organs. They were then shot in the head, with medical staff waiting to remove the organs for transplant.

'Thriving trade'
In September, an undercover BBC investigation found a "thriving trade" in organs from executed prisoners.

One hospital in Tianjin told a BBC correspondent it could supply a transplant liver at a cost of £50,000 (US$94,400). The chief surgeon confirmed that the organ could come from an executed prisoner.

The BBC said China's foreign ministry admitted in March that organs from prisoners were used in transplants, but claimed this occurred only in "very few cases".

One official told the BBC that prisoners donated their organs as a "present to society".

Related stories:
China restricts organs from executions -- 29 March, 2006

, , executed prisoners, human rights, law reform, organ transplant

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