It was recently reported that 53 Australians received organ transplants in China from 2001 to 2014, which was recently confirmed by Scott Ludlam via a question on notice to the minister for health.
Why might this be important?
Because there is strong evidence to suggest that China is home to the most rampant illegal organ trade in the world and is the number one destination for ‘transplant tourism’. Recently published research by author Ethan Gutmann, former Canadian politician David Kilgour and lawyer David Matas claims China is performing 60,000 to 100,000 organ transplants a year. They say this dwarfs the Communist regime’s estimates of about 10,000 and that it cannot be explained by China’s fledgling program for voluntary organ donors.
There is evidence to suggest that 176 Australians have had an organ transplant overseas in the last 13 years, with half being illegal transactions.
According to the Australia & New Zealand Dialysis & Transplant Registry, at least 55 Australians travelled overseas to receive a kidney transplant between 2006-2015. The data isn’t broken down by countries and doesn’t include figures of Australians who have travelled overseas for transplants of organs other than kidneys, such as livers.
With patients who choose to access organ transplant legally having to wait up to seven years, this becomes too lengthy time frame, with many dying in the process of waiting.
In the course of a three-year investigation News Corp has learnt that in February an Australian man bought a kidney off a 26-year-old Pakistani woman as part of a transplant costing $116,000.
Canadian human rights lawyer David Matas says he has uncovered evidence of organ harvesting from death row inmates and political prisoners in China. He says evidence suggests that most of the 10,000 organ transplants which happen each year in China are the result of organ harvesting.
The World Health Organisation is warning of an alarming rise in the illegal trade in human organs, saying around 10 per cent of transplant procedures involve organs that have been bought on the black market.
The latest estimates show that organ traffickers are exploiting poor people in China, India and Pakistan to cash in on the rising international demand for replacement kidneys.
Experts say the trade is not only illegal but dangerous and they say Australians desperate for a kidney transplant are heading overseas and not coming back.
A News Corp investigation has found that almost a hundred desperate Australians have turned to the black market to buy a human organ as demand for transplants outstrips supply – risking their own health, with many of them ending up sick in hospital back in Australia. The unregulated trade is seeing prisoners shot on demand to supply human organs and poor people forced by debt collectors to sell their kidneys for as little as $1000.
Senator Rice in the 2016 Senate Estimates hearings states: “organ harvesting in China, has been documented by investigative reporters since 1994. There is evidence of Falun Gong practitioners and, to a lesser extent, Christians and Tibetans being systematically targeted in large internment and alleged harvesting camps. We know that China currently has two and a half million political prisoners detained. The latest 680-page investigation report on organ harvesting indicates that the 169 approved transplant hospitals could have conducted 60,000 to 100,000 organ transplants per year since 2001.”
There is evidence to suggest that Australians continue to engage in transplant tourism into our region – with China as a preferred destination. Transplantation Society past president Dr Jeremy Chapman says so-called organ tourists continue to escape punishment, despite the trade being illegal. Dr Chapman says the number of commercial transplants globally has dropped from about 10,000 to 2,000 in the past few years, creating an enormous demand for organs.
Organ harvesting is known to be a trade that victimises the vulnerable and the exploiters are usually the rich and well off – who can afford to pay the poor to keep silent.
This abhorrent violation of people’s rights goes to the most fundamental and inalienable right of a person: their right to life, and Australia needs to ensure that we are not contributors to these violations.
I recently made a Federal Government Submission to their Inquiry into Human Organ Trafficking and Human Transplant Tourism. This inquiry is welcomed, and needed.
Australia needs to move towards a more comprehensive, holistic legislative reform to transplant tourism, guided by the Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism, which is also guided by the World Health Organisation’s Principles on Human Cell, Tissue and Organ Transplantation, and in consideration of international extradition laws under Article 16 of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime’s Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime and the Protocols Thereto.
Australia’s domestic laws need to give powers for such preventative and diversionary approaches to tourism transplant and organ harvesting in our region, ensuring the full extent of investigative, law enforcement and exercise of criminal jurisdiction, for the necessary prosecution of organised crime, and for the protection of vulnerable victims.
Similarly to our recent law reform in relation to the restrictions on paedophiles in travelling overseas to harm children in other jurisdictions, Australia needs to ensure that we are not part of the problem of transplant tourism and not creating a demand for the trade in human organs of vulnerable targeted minorities abroad.
It is inconsistent with our international human rights obligations that organs can be easily bought by Australians on the black market in China – for a premium price – which victimises the most vulnerable, and encourages the ongoing torture, illegal detention and persecution of minority groups under a Communist regime.
We need to make sure we are not creating a market for this illegal trade and grave violations of the rights of vulnerable minorities in our region.