Intended for healthcare professionals


Engaging with China on organ transplantation

BMJ 2017; 356 doi: (Published 07 February 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:j665
  1. Wendy A Rogers, professor of clinical ethics1,
  2. Matthew P Robertson, independent researcher2,
  3. Jacob Lavee, director3
  1. 1Department of Philosophy and Department of Clinical Medicine, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia
  2. 2New York, USA
  3. 3Heart Transplantation Unit, Leviev Heart Center, Sheba Medical Center, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel
  4. Correspondence to: W A Rogers

Withdraw professional engagement pending transparency about procurement and accountability for past abuses

In 2005, one of China’s most prominent liver transplant surgeons travelled to the far western province of Xinjiang. There he performed a highly complex autologous liver transplantation. The patient’s liver was explanted, the cancer excised, and the liver retransplanted.

As a backup to this innovative, risky procedure, the surgeon ordered two extra livers by phoning hospitals in Chongqing and Guangzhou. These were delivered the next morning.1 2 3 4 Such events are unimaginable in systems where organs are freely donated, scarce, and allocated according to need. In China in 2005, most organs for transplants came from executed prisoners.5

This incident was widely reported in the Chinese media, identifying the surgeon as Huang Jiefu, familiar to many in the West as the official spokesperson for China’s organ transplantation system. In February, Huang will represent China at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS) summit on organ trafficking and transplant tourism at the Vatican. There he will, according to the official Communist Party newspaper, People’s Daily, “share with the world China’s solution to …

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