More voices around globe are calling to ban transplant tourism to China. Prof. Lavee was one of initiators of Israeli law banning access to Chinese organs in 2008. We caught up with him in Taiwan.
VIDEO — Transplant tourism has been banned in Israel since 2008 in response to forced organ harvesting in China. Now more countries are considering adopting the Israeli transplant law.
Israeli heart transplant professor Jacob Lavee, from the Sheba Medical Center, played a major role in enacting the law that prohibits Israelis from obtaining organs in China for transplant surgeries. After his success in Israel, Prof. Lavee is going global with the same issue. He serves on the advisory board of the American NGO Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting. He recently attended a conference of the International Care Association of Organ Transplants in Taiwan before heading to Seoul, South Korea, Boston and other cities.
How did you get involved in this?
Prof. Lavee: «The way I got involved in the issue of forced organ harvesting in China was when a patient of mine told me in 2005 he was tired of waiting for a heart in Israel, and was told by his insurance company to go to China in three weeks time to get a heart transplant. The patient actually went to China and got his heart on day he was promised he would receive it. So this set me researching, and I found out the whole gruesome story about the use of forced organ harvesting, and later on the fact that most of the organs in China are retrieved from Falun Gong practitioners, based on the research by Kilgour and Matas.»
After the Chinese regime started to persecute people who practice Falun Gong in 1999, China suddenly rose to be second in the world in the number of organ transplants within just five years. However, China does not have an effective national organ donation system and there was no explanation for the sources of the organs.
Independent Canadian investigators concluded mostly Falun Gong practitioners and other prisoners of conscience in labor camps, detention centers and prisons were being used as a live organ bank and killed on demand. However it wasn’t a surprise for Prof. Lavee as he already knew about the unethical norms in China since 2005.
We asked him why he puts so much effort into this issue.
Prof. Lavee: «My personal motivation going into this issue was the fact that I am the son of a father who was a refugee from a Nazi concentration camp, and I told myself that we cannot repeat the same story that went on during the Second World War, during the Holocaust, where the entire world knew about the Holocaust of the Jewish people and did nothing. Here we know about the genocide of people within China, about the crime against humanity that is taking place in China, and I needed to do something about it.»
Taiwan’s citizens continue to travel to Mainland China for organs. Local human rights activists hope that Professor Lavee’s visit to the country may bring about a change in Taiwan.