Thursday, October 6, 2011

Kidney and Liver Theft On the increase in China

A recent report by a major Chinese newspaper told the story of a young man who became the victim of organ theft by his new employer, a medical device company. The man's nightmarish experience highlights the widespread, illicit organ trade in China. The lucrative business chain includes many organ brokers, major hospitals, and the Chinese government. Not only prisoners are at risk, but anyone who is young and healthy can become a victim.

Twenty-five-year old Xiaohai told his story to the Yangtse Evening Post on Sept. 18. He said his new employer sent him on a business trip. But instead of doing business, he was taken to a hospital, and had one of his kidneys taken out without his consent.

After graduating from medical college, Xiaohai lived in Xiamen, China's southern Province, where he worked at a temporary job for a medical device company.

In June 2010 he was offered a high-paying position by another medical device company in Nanjing.

On the second day after starting his new job, Xiaohai was sent to get a physical exam. He didn't think too much about it as he thought it was quite normal for new employees to have a health check.

"It's just that there were more aspects examined, and it was more comprehensive than a routine physical exam," he said

Late October 2010, Xiaohai was sent on a business trip to Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province, by his boss Wang Jin.

After arriving in Xuzhou at about 9 p.m., Xiaohai was driven directly to the Huohua community health service center, also known as the Huohua Hospital, in the Jiuli district of Xuzhou, and was escorted into a room adjacent to an operating room.
There he was given a glass of water, which contained anesthetics, and lost consciousness after drinking it. Later, in a semiconscious state, he overheard someone saying that a chief surgeon from Shanghai was performing the surgery. Then he was given an injection in the shoulder and became unconscious again.

"I woke up to find many tubes attached to my body. I had no feeling in my body, but I knew the doctor was stitching up a surgery wound on me," Xiaohai said.

He overheard someone telling the surgeon to take something back to Shanghai, and saw two people in plain clothes taking away a stainless steel box.

"My kidney may have been in there," Xiaohai said.

Xiaohai learned later that his boss applied for a bank card in Xiaohai's name, and had some money deposited to the account as compensation for the surgery, despite the fact Xiaohai had been completely uninformed of the surgery and had given no consent.

When he questioned hospital staff, he was told his relatives had signed an agreement.

His boss told him that someone had paid 350,000 yuan (US$54,880) to cover all expenses. The hospital had received 200,000 yuan (US$31,360), his boss had received 110,000 (US$17,248), and just 30,000 (US$4,704) had gone to the donor--himself.

Xiaohai also learned that seven or eight other employees at his company had undergone kidney removal surgery under similar circumstances, without their knowledge or consent.

Falun Gong⁠ members perform a mock forced organ removal performance in a shopping district of Hong Kong in January 2010. Members of the spiritual group have been targeted for their organs, which were harvested from them involuntarily.

Too Many to Count

Trade in kidneys is a booming and extremely lucrative business in China, with some prominent Chinese hospitals maintaining long-term business relationships with kidney brokers, according to a recent report by Sound of Hope Radio (SOH).

An online search in Chinese for kidney transplants in China yields hundreds of thousands of hits.

One online ad from Zhengzhou City, Henan Province, said that their kidney brokers have been working with major hospitals for a long time. They actively solicit kidney donors, and cover donors' travel expenses.

A SOH reporter called one of the kidney brokers, who said that he is willing to pay 400,000 yuan (US$62,588) for a kidney, and that applicants should be "between the ages of 18 to 35."

The man also said he has been in this business for three to four years, and handled so many cases that he has "lost count" how many times he had facilitated the process.

He said he worked with the absolutely best hospitals, adding, "Don't worry, it's a simple surgery that doesn't pose any danger. We work with hospitals. As long as you pass the physical exam, they will perform the surgery for you."

The broker would not reveal which hospital a kidney donor should go to for a physical exam and only said, "I'll tell you when we meet."

When asked if there was any contractual agreement, the broker said there was none.

"It's illegal anyway, so why would we need a contractual agreement?" he asked.

Cases of kidneys being stolen and sold have been frequently reported by Chinese newspapers. Chinese citizens who are granted few or no rights or protection in China, such as Falun Gong practitioners, labor camp prisoners, the homeless, and victims of trafficking, are frequent targets of the black market organ trade.

Since the persecution of Falun Gong⁠ in 1999, the number of organ transplants in China has dramatically increased according to statistics and reports.

He Xiaoshun, the vice president of the First Affiliated Hospital at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, told Southern Weekly in March 2010, "The year 2000 marked the turning point in organ transplants in China."

In 2000, liver transplants in China was 10 times higher than in 1999, and tripled in 2005.


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