Dr. Philip O’Connell (Left) and Professor Jeremy Chapman (Right)
Criticism is being leveled at clinicians from Sydney’s Westmead Institute for Medical Research, including Dr. Philip O’Connell and Professor Jeremy Chapman, the current and past presidents of The Transplantation Society – as the international body meets in Hong Kong for its 26th congress today.
Recently published research by author Ethan Gutmann, former Canadian politician David Kilgour and lawyer David Matas claims China is performing 60,000 to 100,000 organ transplants a year. They say this dwarfs the Communist regime’s estimates of about 10,000 and that it cannot be explained by China’s fledgling program for voluntary organ donors.
The investigators claim many of the organs are taken from prisoners of conscience, mainly the persecuted Falun Gong religious minority, but also Uyghurs, Tibetans and “House Christians” who congregate secretly in worshippers’ homes.
Professor Chapman, who has previously cast serious doubt on their numbers, told SBS that attacks on Westmead were “scurrilous” and that Falun Gong was making the most of the Hong Kong congress “to highlight the plight of their devotees”.
“We understand that motive but cannot permit such wild and false innuendo and allegations to pass without comment,” he said.
Professor Chapman was reacting to criticism of Westmead, a teaching hospital connected to Sydney University, co-operating with the Third Xiangya Hospital, a major transplant hospital in Hunan province, since at least 2008.
Dr O’Connell told the congress on Friday he welcomed China’s “cessation” of using organs from executed prisoners as of January 1, 2015, but he reminded those attending that foreign observers remained skeptical of the country’s commitment to reforms.
While The Transplantation Society had campaigned for more than 10 years to stop prisoner executions, Dr O’Connell conceded: “Many people in the global community are not persuaded that China has changed.”
Professor Chapman has insisted that Dr. Huang is a reformer who is trying to bring China’s organ transplant system into a new era of transparency where organs are sourced only from consenting civilian donors.
In an open letter published on The Transplantation Society’s website, Chapman said the TTS “supports those in China who are agents for change” and is committed to the development of “an ethically based, transparent, deceased organ donor program, which must be free of corruption and financial incentives.”
Doctor Chapman told SBS that the Chinese practice of organ donation had markedly improved since the publication of his 2013 article.
Dr O’Connell told The Transplant Society congress there were “political undertones” to “some of the media on this topic which TTS is aware of and makes no judgements on”.
“There are some sectors both inside and outside of China who, for different reasons, want you to fail,” he warned. “Many people in the global community are not persuaded that China has changed. It is up to you to demonstrate clearly and transparently that you are no longer using executed prisoner organs and are not selling Chinese organs.”