4 Hearts in 10 Days: China’s ‘On Demand’ Organ Bank Raises Concerns of Forced Harvesting
By: Eva Fu
11 August 2020
Chinese doctors had four hearts on hand for Sun Lingling, a 24-year-old Chinese national who for nine months was on life support.
The 24-year-old fell ill in Japan with a rare autoimmune disease that led to irreversible heart damage. In mid-June, her medical team flew her to China’s Wuhan Union Hospital on a chartered flight. Four heart matches came in the course of 10 days. After a grueling seven-hour surgery, she recovered to the point where she was able to eat on her own.
Accounts of Sun’s survival, and an image of her smiling and posing with a victory hand sign on her hospital bed, appeared on the front pages of major Chinese newspapers with dramatic headlines, such as “A life or death race.” The Chinese embassy in Japan called the surgery “legendary” and touted it as a show of China-Japan friendship and cooperation.
But with China’s voluntary organ donation system still in its nascent stage, experts questioned how the hospital was able to source Sun’s matching organs so quickly—a concern at the core of allegations that the regime is engaged in the grisly practice of forced organ harvesting: killing prisoners of conscience to sell their organs for profit.
Organs ‘On Demand’?
Sun’s first matching heart came on June 16 from Wuhan, but doctors, upon assessing the coronary artery, found the health condition not up to par and gave it up. After finding a second heart from nearby Hunan Province three days later, Sun developed a high fever which again delayed the surgery. On June 25, she received another two offers: one from a female in Wuhan, and a second from a male in the southern city of Guangzhou. They chose the latter because it has “better heart functions,” the Chinese media report said.
“The question is: who is the source for these 4 hearts,” said Dr. Torsten Trey, executive director of the medical ethics advocacy group Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting. In the United States, patients generally waited for around 6.9 months for a matching heart donation, according to the latest government data from 2018. At this rate, to get four matching hearts for the same person—meaning four people who donated their organs after they died at the ICU or in fatal accidents—may take around two years, he noted.