I’ve opined on these pages that the “default” position of a government should be in favor of harvesting the organs of someone who dies, so that the living can benefit from this evanescent resource. I’ve also opined that one’s body is one’s own property and one should get to control what happens to it — and reconciled those positions with an “opt out” procedure by which if one has an objection to the postmortem harvesting of one’s organs, one could prevent that from happening.
But nowhere would I ever have suggested it was okay to actually kill someone for the purpose of taking their organs. This is something that the People’s Republic of China does. A U.S. Congressional committee investigating the practice has determined that something like 95% of all organs used in transplants in China are the result of harvests taken from execution victims. That same commission found that China nearly two thirds of capital punishment sentences are imposed for nonviolent crime, or things that would not be considered crimes at all in free nations (like membership in a religious cult, however bizarre its teachings might be).
Investigations by Western governments into the practice have confirmed its existence, despite official denials and substantial international reprobation. Amnesty International reported last year: “In November a deputy minister announced that the majority of transplanted organs came from executed prisoners. In July new regulations banned the buying and selling of organs and required written consent from donors for organ removal.” Nevertheless, the practice seems to continue.
Here’s how it works. You’re worshiping in the way that you think is right. The police break in, arrest you and everyone else, and ship you off to a prison. You might or might not get a perfunctory hearing, but since your membership in your religious group makes you an enemy of the state, you really have no rights at all. You get shuttled from prison to prison several times a week. You are periodically examined by a doctor. One day, a guard calls you out, and takes you to a room with an operating table. You are strapped down on the table, and a doctor administers a dose of something that kills you. Before you are dead, the operation begins to take the still-living organs out of your body.
The organs may well be sold on the international market; a single good kidney can fetch as much as $60,000 (US). Given that the government doctor doesn’t need to keep the patient alive after removing the kidney, the other one can go out, too. Livers, hearts, lungs, eyes, and various other organs can also be harvested from healthy prisoners. It is not hard to understand how a single execution can produce hard cash income to the government of something like half a million dollars. Bear in mind also that China already suffers from a surplus of population, and there is a large market of people with dire medical needs for the transplants. In China, the average wait time for a healthy adult kidney is fifteen days.
But I wouldn’t want that kidney. Nineteen times out of twenty, that kidney came from a political prisoner who lost his life so that his internal organs could be scrapped out like so many spare parts from a junked car. Murdered by the state for profit.
Welcome to China, Olympics fans. You’ll be coming home, but you might not make it in one piece.