The practice of transplanting organs from executed prisoners in China appears to be widespread. We vigorously condemn this practice and, effective immediately, will not consider manuscripts on human organ transplantation for publication unless appropriate non-coerced consent of the donor is provided and substantiated.
Arthur L. Caplan, Howard A. Rockman, Laurence A. Turka
Boycott of Chinese science and medicine pertaining to organ transplantation: Universal obligations to protect human rights
Department of Critical Care Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Phoenix, Arizona 85054, USA
Published January 23, 2012
To the Editor
Caplan and colleagues (1) call for “boycott of Chinese science and medicine pertaining to organ transplantation” because of : “(1) use of executed prisoners as a source of organs, and (2) not all of the organs are provided by voluntary consenting donors.” In a roundtable discussion (2) of surgical extraction of vital organs from 3 infants for transplantation, Caplan concluded, correctly in our view, that the 3 infants were not dead at the time of surgical procurement. In that situation, valid donor consent was not obtained, and the process of procuring vital organs was the proximate cause of death. The parallels between “killing for organs” and absent “voluntary consent” of donors with the Chinese practice in organ donation should not be ignored. Both violate basic human rights and must be considered “morally reprehensible” (1). In civilized society, prisoners are considered “vulnerable persons” but so are dying adults and infants. Their basic human rights must be protected regardless of surrogate (parental) consent. Joffe and colleagues have highlighted unresolved practical problems in organ procurement. (3) In response to the Chinese organ procurement process, Caplan and colleagues (4) state that they “…vigorously condemn this practice and, effective immediately, will not consider manuscripts on human organ transplantation for publication unless appropriate non-coerced consent of the donor is provided and substantiated.” We agree with Caplan et al, but we think the boycott should apply to any organ procurement process based on an ethical system of recovery that implicitly allows for obtaining organs by “killing the donor” and “nonvoluntary consent/authorization.”
- Caplan AL, Danovitch G, Shapiro M, Lavee J, Epstein M. Time for a boycott of Chinese science and medicine pertaining to organ transplantation. Lancet. 2011;378(9798):1218.
- The New England Journal of Medicine (online). Perspective Roundtable: Organ Donation after Cardiac Death (Video Roundtable). 2008; http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/359/7/669/DC1. Accessed 6 January, 2012.
- Joffe A, Carcillo J, Anton N, et al. Donation after cardiocirculatory death: a call for a moratorium pending full public disclosure and fully informed consent. Philos Ethics Humanit Med. 2011;6(1):17. http://www.peh-med.com/content/6/1/17.
- Caplan AL, Rockman HA, Turka LA. Editorial position on publishing articles on human organ transplantation. J Clin Invest. 2012;122(1):2-2.