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Organ harvest: How Chinese surgeons removed hearts, lungs of inmates on death row while they’re still alive

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China enlisted surgeons to execute prisoners by cutting out their hearts, new Australian research has revealed.

The Australian National University study, which examined thousands of medical papers from the communist nation, uncovered shocking secrets about China’s clandestine organ harvesting trade.

The research, published in the American Journal of Transplantation, found the certified causes of death did not align with the medical procedures listed in 56 hospitals across the country.

Instead, prisoners’ hearts were harvested from their chests before they were brain dead to be given to transplant recipients.

Concerned human rights advocates said the new mounting evidence “tells a terrible tale of murder and mutilation in China” and the stories coming out of the Chinese Communist Party are ‘almost too dreadful to believe.’

The study’s authors – ANU PhD researcher Matthew Robertson and Israeli cardiac transplant surgeon Jacob Lavee — said their work is the first comprehensive study that “illustrates the active role that transplant physicians in China played in this process.”

The researchers said their findings show how the process of executions appears to have transitioned from a firing squad in a field to the operating room.

“We found that the physicians became the executioners on behalf of the state, and that the method of execution was heart removal,” Robertson said.

“These surgeries are highly profitable for the doctors and hospitals that engage in them.”

Robertson said the removal of the heart is what killed the prisoners.

The surgeries were conducted on death-row prisoners, as well as prisoners of conscience – people who are imprisoned for who they are or what they believe in.

The authors said Chinese official records stated the prisoners were brain dead prior to the surgeries, but that was impossible.

The main criteria used to determine brain death is whether the patient can breathe without a ventilator, but in the transplant cases the declaration of death was made before the prisoner’s breathing ability was assessed with the machine.

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In other cases, this was done by a face mask and not intubation, which the researchers said was a clear breach of organ transplant regulations.

“This was one of the strongest pieces of evidence of failure to adhere to the dead donor rule because ventilation via intubation is a key step in being able to diagnose brain death,” Lavee said.

“There were several other problematic features of these clinical case reports. For instance, the donors did not have intravenous lines established until moments before surgery, and several papers referred to acute brain death.

“This evidence suggests that the donors’ organs were procured before they could have been properly diagnosed as brain dead.”

The research analysed  124,770 medical papers from official Chinese databases between 1980 and 2020.

Using a custom algorithm that scanned the reports, the researchers found 71 suspected heart-removal deaths in 56 hospitals, involving more than 300 medical workers across China.

Robertson and Dr Lavee believe the true number of unethical surgical deaths is much higher.

They say the practice – which China has denied engaging in – has been going on for more than three decades, with other organs – including livers and kidneys – also suspected to be taken as part of the secret trade.

However, Chinese hospitals continue to advertise transplant waiting times of weeks, whereas wait times in other countries, like the US, are measured in months and years.

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