At least 71 death row Chinese convicts in China had their essential organs missing before they were officially certified dead.
Mathew P. Robertson, a study author of the event noted that the physicians became the executioners on behalf of the state. He added that the means of execution was heart removal.
According to the report, Chinese surgeons have ignored a critical transplant donor criterion for decades.
The study’s authors, Australian National University researcher Matthew P. Robertson and cardiac surgeon Jacob Lavee, examined 2,838 cases. They discovered that a total of 348 medical workers took part in death row executions between 1980 and 2015.
The World Medical Association, a regulator of ethical standards for clinicians in the world states that organ removal should not be the cause of death for transplant donors.
“The dead donor rule is fundamental to transplant ethics,” the study reads.
“The rule states that organ procurement must not commence until the donor is both dead and formally pronounced so. By the same token, that procurement of organs must not cause the death of the donor.”
The cases showed that medics did not accurately check that inmates were brain dead; the study authors determined this by manually reviewing 310 papers that mentioned the word “donor.”
“If the reports we examine are accurate, they indicate that heart and lung procurement by the surgeon was the proximate cause of the prisoner’s death, thus directly implicating the surgeon in the execution,” the study reads.
“This was one of the strongest pieces of evidence of failure to adhere to the dead donor rule,” 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. This evidence suggests that the donors’ organs were procured before they could have been properly diagnosed as brain dead,” Lavee added.
There was no protocol for voluntary organ donation, and all transplants were performed on death row convicts.
Dr Frank Montgomery, Chair of the World Medical Association’s Council, told Insider via email that the organization has long criticized organ harvesting from executed prisoners as immoral. He further added that their actions helped China restrict inmate organ harvesting in 2015.
“We are now seeking a clear promise from our Chinese member organization that this immoral activity would no longer be carried out in China,” Montgomery added.
Yaqui Wang, the senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, appears to be suspicious that the country has stopped the practice.