We must do more to end forced organ harvesting
My Organ Tourism and Cadavers on Display Bill targets both the issue of organ tourism to China and body exhibitions in the UK.
My interest in tackling the issue of forced organ harvesting in China came about after I was sponsor for the Opt Out Organ Donation Bill, which is now UK legislation. If we are to ask the UK public to have full confidence in our opt out system, it is essential that the ethical basis is assured and is overseen with rigorous inspection and regulation.
According to NHS Blood and Transplant, between 2010 and July 2020 “there are 29 cases on the UK Transplant Registry of patients being followed up in the UK after receiving a transplant in the People’s Republic of China.” For anyone who has heard of forced organ harvesting, the fact that any UK Citizen might travel to China to receive an organ is greatly alarming.
In March last year, the China Tribunal, an international people’s tribunal, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, concluded in their Final Judgement that “forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale and that Falun Gong practitioners have been one – and probably the main - source of organ supply.” And that “In regard to the Uyghurs the Tribunal had evidence of medical testing on a scale that could allow them, amongst other uses, to become an ‘organ bank’.”
Forced organ harvesting is commercialised murder and without doubt, among the worst of crimes
We are now hearing further testimonies during the course of the Uyghur Tribunal of potential forced organ harvesting of Uyghurs, including Sayragul Sauytbay, who testified during the June hearings, that she discovered medical files detailing all the Uyghur detainees’ blood types and results of liver tests while she was working at a Uyghur camp.
My Organ Tourism and Cadavers on Display Bill targets both the issue of organ tourism to China and body exhibitions in the UK. Regarding organ tourism, the Bill is not country specific, it instead ensures informed consent, with no coercion nor financial gain, thus also prohibiting organ tourism which involves black market organ trafficking, an abuse that is known to be taking place in a number of countries around the world. My proposed legislation for bodies on display would mean imported bodies would have the same consent requirements as bodies sourced from within the UK.
If you happened to visit the NEC Exhibition Centre in Birmingham during the Summer of 2018, you may have stumbled across Real Bodies, an exhibition of deceased, silicone filled human corpses, commercially displayed supposedly in the name of art and science by a company called Imagine Exhibitions. These bodies came from China with no documentation or consent and according to campaigners and experts, may have been executed prisoners of conscience.
Current UK Human Tissue legislation prohibits bodies on display without prior consent if the bodies are sourced within UK soil. However, corpses sourced overseas can be imported and put on commercial display in the UK without any identifying documentation or consent. Even though the bodies may belong to executed prisoners, current UK legislation means such exhibitions are perfectly legal.
In January this year, after significant pressure from across the House of Lords, my amendment to the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill was the first piece of UK legislation to fight against forced organ harvesting by ensuring no medicines in the UK could include human tissues from victims of forced organ harvesting. This small, but significant step in legislation change is only the beginning of the work we must do here in the UK to prevent complicity in this horrific crime.
I have always believed that the UK government could be a powerful advocate for changing these practices. We must take action in the UK and internationally to do all we can to prevent forced organ harvesting. Organ donation is a precious act of saving a life but forced organ harvesting is commercialised murder and without doubt, among the worst of crimes. My Bill takes us a step forward and I hope the UK government gets behind this Bill and sees it as an opportunity to show the world that the UK will stand up for victims of human rights abuses internationally.
Lord Hunt is a Labour peer and former health and justice minister.
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