Chinese Transplant Surgeons Executed Prisoners By Heart Extraction, New Study Finds

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, a new research report on China’s system of organ harvesting, authored by Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) China Studies Fellow and PhD candidate in political science at the Australian National University, Matthew P. Robertson, and Dr. Jacob Lavee, director of the Heart Transplantation Unit at the Sheba Medical Centre in Israel, was published in the American Journal of Transplantation. The full report is available here.

Together, the report authors examined over 120,000 Chinese-language medical publications and uncovered evidence that medical professionals in the PRC removed organs from living humans for the purposes of transplants, in the process killing them. Many of the condemned are political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.

The analyzed papers illustrate how healthcare professionals become executioners. The examples uncovered in this report detail highly irregular practices by the surgeons while the operations take place, indicating that their subjects were still alive throughout the procedure. The study identified 71 papers describing procedures carried out in 56 hospitals in 33 cities across 15 provinces; involving 348 medical professionals or researchers. These papers included cases where donors were intubated after they were declared brain dead, were intubated immediately before their organs were extracted, or were ventilated by mask only.

The practice of forced organ harvesting breaks two long-established taboos in medicine: the dead donor rule, which forbids extracting transplant organs from living donors, and the injunction against physicians participating in executions. These practices violate medical ethics and assault human dignity and the sanctity of life. Only under a predatory government with little transparency, accountability, or rule of law could such practices persist.

China in recent years has developed one of the largest and most sophisticated systems of organ transplantation in the world, with wait times far shorter than in most other countries. The PRC maintains that as of now all organ transplants are from willing donors, but the numbers appear to be falsified, according to Robertson and Lavee’s previous research. Moreover, hospitals continue to advertise short wait times for organ transplants, and websites continue to advertise commercial organ transplants to tourists. This suggests that voluntary donors are likely not the only source of organs at present.

These findings have dire implications for not just the healthcare system in China, but for the world. China has become a center of “medical tourism,” broadcasting adverts for guaranteed, ready-to-go transplants in many languages. In no other country could someone expect to order an organ and have it ready when they arrive. In addition, China’s increasing influence on world healthcare institutions mean that doctors in the West may unknowingly become implicated in covering up Beijing’s atrocities. If the COVID pandemic has shown anything, then it is the implications of China having a leadership role in the World Health Organization and other such international healthcare bodies.

Ambassador Andrew Bremberg, VOC President and CEO, said of the report, “The CCP’s organ harvesting practices exposed by this report clearly violate basic medical ethics and are an assault on human dignity. The US and all who profess to believe in medical ethics must take action to hold the CCP accountable and demand greater transparency.”

This report builds on previous research into Beijing’s forced organ harvesting scheme, including the China Tribunal, an independent tribunal that in 2019 determined that Beijing was engaging in this atrocity. It also intersects with the work on genocide in Xinjiang, after millions of Uyghur Muslims became subject to extra-legal incarceration. Thus far, Beijing has refused to engage with work done on this issue by witnesses and other qualified researchers, and officials have not provided serious explanations that would refute the evidence.

Dr. Arthur L. Caplan, Mitty Professor of Bioethics and Director of the Division of Medical Ethics at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, stated about the report, “It has been clear for some time that human rights abuses in the field of transplantation have been ongoing in the PRC. The volume of transplants done there is not consistent with voluntary donation rates from cadaver sources. Many still argue, however that hard evidence of the killing of persons to derive organs for transplant is missing. This careful review by Robertson and Lavee provides incontrovertible proof that health care personnel have been involved in obtaining and transplanting vital organs from individuals who did not meet the criteria for declaring them dead. Organ removal has been, as this study shows, the cause of death for some where transplants occurred. This abhorrent conduct is a grievous violation of medical ethics, human rights, and basic human dignity. Killing for parts cannot be accepted as a part of the field of transplantation by governments, NGOs, health care providers, scientific journals, or the general public. The evidence is plain; I hope the requisite action will follow.

On Thursday, April 7, VOC will host a virtual conversation with a panel of top China experts about the newly released report detailing evidence of forced organ harvesting from still-living prisoners. Top China experts will examine Beijing’s crimes against humanity, and the implications these abuses have on healthcare worldwide.


For further information, please contact Ashlee Davis at