China Organ Harvesting Fears Lead to Retraction of Medical Studies

Organ harvesting.

Two medical journals have retracted 15 studies over concerns that bodily organs came from executed prisoners in China. (Image: via Unsplash)

Fifteen medical studies were retracted from two journals in August over concerns that their authors used organs from the organ harvesting of executed prisoners in China.

The medical journals, Transplantation and PLOS ONE, pulled the studies that they had published from 2008-2014, the blog Retraction Watch reported.

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The report said that two of the studies involved kidney transplants, and the rest involved liver transplants.

“It is clear, with the benefit of hindsight, and through the Chinese Government’s subsequent clarifications of their practices, that most deceased donors were from executed people, before the government implementation of Donation after Circulatory Death in 2010 in selected hospitals and widely from 2015,” said Transplantation journal in a statement. “This was not transparent to reviewers and editors at the time of original acceptance for publication of these articles.”

Retraction Watch stated that both journals cited a paper written by Wendy Rogers of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and her colleagues.

Roger’s article was published in the medical journal BMJ earlier this year and it called for the withdrawal of more than 400 organ transplant research papers from China amid concerns the organs were acquired from prisoners.

Retraction Watch added that two other journals — the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology and Kidney International — were also considering suspect studies published.

One of the slide images used in a TEDx talk on forced organ harvesting in China.
One of the slide images used in a TEDx talk on forced organ harvesting in China. (Image: TEDx Talks via YouTube Screenshot)

The ‘practice continues’

The Chinese government said that it had outlawed the use of organs from executed prisoners in 2015, but experts state the practice still continues. Not only do they say it continues, but they believe the main source of organs is not from criminal prisoners, but prisoners of conscience, including persecuted Falun Gong practitioners and Uyghurs.

A landmark 700-plus page report in mid-2016 demonstrated the extent of forced organ harvesting in China. The report estimated that 60,000 to 100,000 organ transplants are performed annually in China. Among the evidence used to calculate these figures was data from hospital revenues, transplantation volumes, bed utilization rates, surgical personnel, training programs, and state funding.


Earlier this month, the Republican National Committee adopted a resolution condemning involuntary organ harvesting in China, calling it a major human rights violation.

“It is believed that since 2000, hundreds of thousands of people have been murdered and had their organs involuntarily harvested,” said the resolution, which also mentioned the independent China Tribunal judgment from June this year that stated China’s regime has for decades practiced systematic forced organ removal from prisoners of conscience.

Chairing the tribunal was former international war crimes prosecutor Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who delivered the final judgment.

“Forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale and that Falun Gong practitioners have been one — and probably the main — source of organ supply,” Nice said.

“The concerted persecution and medical testing of the Uyghurs is more recent, and it may be that evidence of forced organ harvesting of this group may emerge in due course,” he said.

A still image of a street poster from the documentary film 'Hard to Believe.'
A still image of a street poster from the documentary film ‘Hard to Believe.’ (Image: Screenshot via Vimeo)

In June 2016, a U.S. House of Representatives resolution was unanimously passed that urged the Chinese government to stop harvesting the organs of prisoners of conscience and end the persecution of Falun Gong.

The European Parliament passed a similar resolution in 2013. Taiwan, Israel, and Spain have all banned organ tourism to China.

Speaking at the release of the U.S. 2018 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback — the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom — singled out organ harvesting in China.

“We share reports — again, that others make — that Chinese authorities have subjected prisoners of conscience, including Falun Gong, Uyghurs, Tibetan Buddhists, and underground Christians, to forcible organ harvesting,” Brownback said on June 21. “This should shock everyone’s conscience.”

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