January 31, 2007

Canada and other countries should discourage or prevent their citizens from going to China to get human organs whose "donors" may have been killed so that the organs could be harvested, a team of human rights lawyers said on Wednesday. Former Canadian Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific David Kilgour and lawyer David Matas presented a report they say leads to the inescapable conclusion that Falun Gong dissidents and other prisoners in China are killed for their organs.

"Once a customer arrives into China, somebody's killed for the organ, whether it's a prisoner sentenced to death or a Falun Gong practitioner, and they just have this huge supply of people in jail waiting to be killed for organ donations," Matas told reporters.

He said that was one reason China was seeing an explosion in dedicated organ transplant facilities. The number of liver transplant facilities, for example, multiplied to 500 last year from 22 before 1999.

Matas estimated that at least 100 Canadians have gone to China for transplants although many might not know about the allegations that people are killed for their organs. He suggested Canada and other countries should issue travel advisories warning that transplants are sourced almost entirely from prisoners who do not give their consent.

The report also called for legislation that would make it illegal for Canadians to participate in an organ transplant without getting the donor's consent.

Chinese Deputy-Health Minister Huang Jiefu called last November for a network to register all organ donations in what would be a step toward regulating the transplant market. Jiefu said that most organs came from executed prisoners rather than from traffic fatalities.

Matas said none of these prisoners would have given their consent, and even if they had, such consent would have been suspect. He said that the United States bans the use of organs from executed prisoners for that reason.

"We shouldn't be complicit in it," Matas said. "If we can impact on the demand, then we can be saving the lives of these people who are executed for their organs."