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 Whistleblowers Need Protection


Doctors join push to end organ trade

By Annabel Stafford, The Age
August 28, 2008

AUSTRALIAN doctors will dob in Chinese hospitals that sell the organs of executed prisoners to Australian patients as part of a global push to stamp out the illegal trade in human organs.

At a meeting of transplant doctors in Sydney this month, the Australian president of the International Transplantation Society promised that his members would alert Chinese authorities when a non-Chinese person travelled to China to buy an organ and would ask the authorities to explain.

Society president Jeremy Chapman stressed that the society would not be dobbing in patients but hospitals, which under recent changes to Chinese law are banned from buying or selling organs.

Last year, China banned the trade in human organs and ruled that consent must be obtained from an organ donor, after facing widespread condemnation over the use of executed prisoners' organs for transplant. Before those changes, there was "no doubt" Australian patients had been buying organs taken from executed prisoners, Professor Chapman said.

As well as the ban on organ trade, the Chinese Ministry of Health has ruled that foreigners can get transplants in China only with government approval, according to the BBC.

China's "determination to improve its connections with the world" had coincided with its moves to improve human rights, particularly when it came to the use of prisoners' organs, Professor Chapman said.

"We need to continue to assist the Chinese transplantation program to enter the mainstream of transplantation globally through the use of brain dead and living donors," he said.

"Certainly (China) has taken significant steps to make changes and we're optimistic the change process will be strong and will reduce the use of executed prisoners for transplants, which we are against under any circumstances.

"The open question remains: what will China be like post-Olympics?"

Professor Chapman estimated about five Australians a year had received organs from executed prisoners before the law was changed. He had treated three patients he believed had bought organs taken from executed prisoners. While none of them had admitted receiving a prisoner's organs, he said: "They never ask the question, they just buy a kidney."

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