Human Exceptionalism

Biological Colonialism: Bioethicists Urge Science Boycott of China Over Organ Killings

Penn bioethicist Art Caplan and I have had some vocal disagreements over the years, but we tend to think very similarly about organ transplant issues.  Now Art and four other bioethicists have an opinion column in The Lancet calling for a boycott of Chinese scientists over its barbaric human organ market.  From “Time For a Boycott of Chinese Science and Medicine Pertaining to Organ Transplantation:”

Transplant “tourists” find their way to China, frustrated by the long waiting times in their own countries and attracted by the competitive price. It is clear from the numbers provided by China that not all of the organs for Chinese citizens and transplant tourists are provided by voluntary consenting donors. The source of many of these organs is executed prisoners whose consent is either non-existent or ethically invalid and whose demise might be timed for the convenience of the waiting recipient.

Rather than wring our hands, the authors issue a call to action:

Despite the continuation of organ donation by execution, the international medical and scientific community has done little to make its moral abhorrence of this state of affairs widely known. Presentations about transplantation in China continue to be made at international conferences, publications about the experience of transplantation in China appear in peer-reviewed journals, and pharmaceutical companies continue their marketing efforts and engage in sponsoring research involving various aspects of transplantation in China.

The time has come to bring normal scientific and medical interchange with China concerning transplantation to a halt. We call for a boycott on accepting papers at meetings, publishing papers in journals, and cooperating on research related to transplantation unless it can be verified that the organ source is not an executed prisoner. These steps are admittedly challenging. But the international biomedical community must firmly and boldly challenge the status quo—the barbarous practice of obtaining organs from executed prisoners.

Rock and roll! Let’s see if the international science community has the ethical understanding and fortitude to make such a strong and powerful statement.  If they do, it could strike a strong blow against biological colonialism.

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