Policy and law for Australia to prevent complicity in foreign transplant abuse

David Matas1

1 Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba, 602-225 Vaughan Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, R3C 1T7, dmatas@mts.net

Because of a shortage of organs, patients in need of transplants wait long periods and become desperate, spurring transplant tourism. What are the professional ethics and legal standards which Australia needs to develop to prevent complicity in foreign transplant abuse? The paper would attempt to answer that question.

For foreign transplant abuse, China would be used as a case study. China has been sourcing organs from prisoners in large numbers, in violation of international ethical principles. Researchers have concluded that a significant number of these sources are prisoners of conscience  Christians, Buddhists and, primarily, practitioners of Falun Gong. The Government of China claims that prisoner organ sourcing has stopped, but the claim is unverifiable and there is substantial contrary evidence. Australian patients, by obtaining transplants in China, and Australian medical professionals, legislators and governments, by not doing what can be done to prevent that from happening, become complicit in Chinese abuses.

The paper would consider what the Australian medical profession, legislators and governments have already been doing to avoid complicity in foreign transplant abuse. Second the paper would update the research on transplant abuse in China.

To assess the situation in Australia, the paper would consider already developed international and local ethical and legal standards. While the focus would be Australia, what other jurisdiction have done on this subject would be presented.

The conclusions would be, first, that despite Chinese official assurances to the contrary, organ sourcing from prisoners continues. Second, there are many steps which could and should be taken in Australia by medical professionals, legislators and governments to avoid complicity in foreign transplant abuse, but which have not yet been taken.


David Matas is an international human rights lawyer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.  He is co-author with David Kilgour of the book “Bloody Harvest: The Killing of Falun Gong for their Organs” published in 2009 and co-editor with Torsten Trey of the book “State Organs: Transplant Abuse in China”, published in 2012.  He is a member of the Order of Canada.

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