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Forced Organ Harvesting from Prisoners of Conscience: A Workshop on the Intersection of Medical Advocacy and Medical Ethics

October 26, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

As biomedicine globalizes, questions of international medical ethics become increasingly apparent. The People’s Republic of China is the country with the steepest increase in the number of transplants in the past 20 years. As of today, it claims to perform at least the second-highest number of annual transplants. The number of human organs available for medical transplantation has been augmented by the practice of forcibly harvesting organs without free, voluntary consent from people incarcerated in their prison system, principally political and religious dissidents. Medical and human rights organizations in other countries have decried this state practice as a violation of basic human rights, and have criticized the Chinese state and transplant community for abandoning the medical profession’s core ethical commitments in their decision to use execution as a means to organ “donation.” But is there any professional ethical obligation for health care professionals outside of China to take responsibility for their colleagues’ complicity with such abuses, given the cultural and political differences that influence their work? What can and should health care professionals across the globe who are motivated to advocate on this issue do, either as individuals or collectively within their medical specialties?

The purpose of this workshop is to host an interdisciplinary discussion of these questions for medical trainees and clinicians,  designed to address the following objectives:

  1. Highlight the moral/human rights crisis in China that has led to the use of political prisoners as organ “donors,” identifying and describing the people that are vulnerable to forced organ harvesting.
  2. Discuss the specific challenges in identifying the scope of the problem, gathering information and evidence, and building the necessary platform and alliances to address it.
  3. Examine advocacy in terms of identifying successful strategies for positive change and further actions in the context of forced organ harvesting in China.
  4. Extrapolate key features that are applicable to other international advocacy efforts and to medical practice outside of China.
  5. Explore how individuals and groups interested in advocacy may get involved at the campus level and beyond.


Contact Name
Brandy Elsenrath UNC Center for Bioethics
Contact Email/Phone