In recent years, it has become increasingly evident that executed prisoners are the principal source of supply of body organs for medical transplantation purposes in China. While most observers would acknowledge the moral dilemmas implicit in this situation, the chronic shortage of voluntary organ donors around the world has led some to believe that such practices may still be justified: through their deaths, after all, condemned criminals can contribute to saving the lives of innocent victims of disease. Recent research by Human Rights Watch/Asia has uncovered, however, important new documentary and other evidence demonstrating that China's heavy reliance on executed prisoners as a source of transplant organs entails a wide range of unacceptable human rights and medical ethics violations.
In this report, Human Rights Watch/Asia calls on the Chinese government to ban all further use of prisoners' organs for transplant operations, provide precise statistical data on capital punishment and executions and comply with the United Nations' "Principles of Medical Ethics" relevant to the role of the medical profession in protecting prisoners against torture and other ill-treatment. It also calls on foreign governments, especially in the Asian region, to discourage or bar their citizens from obtaining organ transplants in China and on foreign funding agencies to adopt a policy of non-participation in all Chinese government-sponsored organ transplant-related research programs. It also calls on foreign medical and pharmaceutical companies which supply goods or services to China's transplant program to cease such activity until the Chinese authorities can demonstrate that executed prisoners' organs are no longer being used for transplant purposes.