Photo © AP/Reuters
It’s hard to believe how time flies; we are rapidly approaching the end of October!
Lately I have been thinking about what compels us to do what we do. Where does our drive come from?
About 10 years ago I went to a conference given by Rachel Naomi Remen, doctor and author, who is a pioneer in the field of clinician well-being. I had read some of her books (Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings) and realized there were other physicians who felt like I did. One of the exercises she did during the conference was to ask participants how old they were when they first realized they wanted to take care of others: less than 5 years old, less than 10 years old, etc. Almost all of the physicians and nurses at the conference fell into the years between 5 and 10. I was younger than 5, and this realization led me to become a doctor. I also became a healthcare advocate when I saw the healthcare system failing to take care of us.
Some of my most profound moments of change have happened when I become aware of injustice, inequity, or crimes against humanity that are committed in the healthcare arena. I was devastated when I read a 2007 blog post by Anna Baltzer, a Jewish American woman working to end the occupation of Palestine. Her friends were trying to take their 6-month-old baby, who was having trouble breathing, from their Palestinian town to their Palestinian hospital in the West Bank. They were stopped at Atara checkpoint by an Israeli soldier who kept them far longer than was necessary, causing the baby to die at the checkpoint.
Earlier this year my book group read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. This dystopian science fiction novel is about (spoiler alert!) a world where human clones are created so they can donate their organs as young adults. The book was incredibly distressing, and I was deeply affected by it. This is the epitome of medical care gone awry. But it’s just a novel, right?
Yes, it’s a novel, but actually, organ harvesting is happening right now. The difference is that people are not being cloned for the purpose. On June 17, 2019, the China Tribunal delivered its Final Judgement and Summary report on forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience in China.
According to the tribunal, China has been accused of organ harvesting since 2000, when it was forcibly removing the organs of death row prisoners. China claimed it was voluntary to redeem prisoners for their crimes, and supposedly stopped in 2015. However, organ transplantation has increased tremendously in China, and medical tourists have been going to China to purchase organs. There appeared to be a larger supply of organs than could be explained by executed criminals alone, and the tribunal set out to investigate.
The summary is:
“forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale and that Falun Gong practitioners have been one - and probably the main - source of organ supply. The concerted persecution and medical testing of the Uyghurs is more recent and it may be that evidence of forced organ harvesting of this group may emerge in due course. The Tribunal has had no evidence that the significant infrastructure associated with China’s transplantation industry has been dismantled and absent a satisfactory explanation as to the source of readily available organs concludes that forced organ harvesting continues till today.”
The estimate is that hundreds of thousands of people have been used as organ donors, and that the victims do not survive. Nor is there any intention that they survive, as surgeries include operations where hearts and kidneys are removed for transplant.
“In regard to the Uyghurs the Tribunal had evidence of medical testing on a scale that could allow them, amongst other uses, to become an ‘organ bank’. The world is already watching their interests and their geographical location – although very large - may render it possible to lend them support more easily than for the Falun Gong who are dispersed throughout the country.”
They go on:
“Governments and any who interact in any substantial way with the PRC including:
As it is, the Uyghurs are being subjected to incredible oppression, human rights abuses, forced into re-education camps, and what are essentially concentration camps. The murder of humans, used as donor banks for the lives of others, is unconscionable. It is the most heinous contamination of the discipline of medicine. These are truly crimes against humanity.
So why am I devoting an entire newsletter to this? Because sometimes the highest form of advocacy for health is political action.
Here are some things we can do:
• Discourage anyone from traveling to China for organ transplantation
• Spread the word
• Educate yourself about this issue
• Write to your Congressional Representatives when an issue like the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019 comes up for a vote (it was passed in the Senate and has been introduced in the House.)
• Support local Uyghurs wherever you are—not a single family I know has been spared the disappearance of at least one relative.
“When we know ourselves to be connected to all others, acting compassionately is simply the natural thing to do.”
― Rachel Naomi Remen
To the health of everyone everywhere.
Sima Kahn, MD
Founder, Healthcare Advocacy Partners
Dr. Sima Kahn muses on being a healthcare advocate, the troubles with our healthcare system, and how to advocate for ourselves.