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|Record ID: 1538970691||From: 台灣|
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ByAthanon January 20, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
My father is one of the pioneers of open heart surgery. For a twenty five year period, during which he set up three different hospitals' practices, he was the preeminent cardiac surgeon in Greece. For example, my father did the first coronary bypass operation in Greece in 1971, a short 4 years after Rene Favaloro's trailblazing work at the Cleveland Clinic.
Transplants had to wait, for two reasons. First, for lack of donors. Second because the human body rejects hearts that come from other people. To solve the first problem science went a number of ways, including the artificial heart and grafts from animals. My father was reluctant to consider either, not out of principle (he was full of admiration for both Jarvik and Bailey, indeed he taught Len Bailey) but because Greece does not have the infrastructure to support either. As soon as Ciclosporin (the first good-enough immunosuppressant) was approved by the FDA, he sought help from world-class transplant specialists in Salt Lake City, Utah and set up the necessary infrastructure to perform heart transplants in Greece.
It was a long wait. In June of 1990, the heart of Koralia Argeith, a registered organ donor, stopped beating after she'd been involved in a car crash. Her husband confirmed that he was comfortable with her decision to be a donor and within hours her heart was giving the gift of life to another human being. That was a full 23 years after Christiaan Barnard's similar operation in Johannesburg. This graft was rejected, sadly, but my father's second transplant patient was much luckier. The two of them had their picture taken together on the 20th anniversary of the operation!
"So daddy, how come this took so much longer?"
"The drugs have only now become good enough, son. Up until now you were only doing your reputation a favor by doing these transplants, not the recipient. The operation is no different, who cares if you're stitching back in the same heart's pipework or another's? But the drugs weren't there to give the heart a chance to bed in."
"Funny thing is," he added, "it's the Chinese who're leading the way on those drugs."
I did not quite believe my father. How on earth could the Chinese be leading the world on any front? This was 1990, to me China meant crappy Rolex imitations, shoddy plastic toys, turtle-blood (and not only) drinking Olympians and cheap scrapyards, to say nothing of The Great Leap Forward, the Red Guards, the jet-plane position (I'd taken a class about the Cultural Revolution in college -it was triple credits that had attracted me, nothing more noble than that) and of course Tiananmen Square. So I thought to myself "daddy just likes to make the point that not everything was invented in the rich countries."
Some twenty years later, dunno, in 2009, I was leaving work one afternoon and an RBS colleague approached me outside the office, near Liverpool St tube. He made it clear that this had nothing to do with work, but he wanted me to read a pamphlet he was handing out. The pamphlet said that the Chinese government was harvesting Falun Gong members for their organs. I read it with interest, went to the Internet, did a quick search and found absolutely nothing. Perhaps it was too quick an Internet search. I'm not an idiot, I did realise that the Chinese government would probably go out of its way to push the relevant results way to the bottom of any search I was bound to do and that my colleague at the bank would not be wasting his valuable time standing in the tube station for no reason, but perhaps I did not want to believe it. So I pushed it to the back of my mind and that was that.
This Christmas either the FT or the Economist, can't remember, listed the favorite books of the year for sundry personalities, and "the Slaughter" featured. I immediately remembered my colleague. If a book had come out about organ harvesting in China, I'd clearly been wrong to push it all to the back of my mind. So I ordered the book and prepared for the worst.
Or rather, I thought I had.
If you're into accounts of torture, this is the book for you. Pages 31 through to 285 of this 315 page book are dedicated to Falun Gong, and chiefly to its suppression and persecution. Pages 100 through to 250 are strictly about how individual members of Falun Gong were persecuted, tortured and beaten to death, after first having valiantly done what they could to escape and then having held their faith. It's all entirely believable, well documented, highly unlikely to be fake, quite possibly verifiable, but just relentless. If you want to find about different ways people have been made to suffer, if you've read about the Roman persecution of the Christians and it whetted your appetite, then buy this book and you will not be disappointed. It's based on a good fifty interviews from people around the world.
The bit that is dedicated to organ harvesting is much more limited. It's the first 50 and the last 65 pages of the book (many of which overlap with Falun Gong).
If you read the acknowledgments you see what happened.
Quite clearly, the author originally set out to map the history of Falun Gong and its persecution in particular. The meat of the book is the story of Falun Gong. But halfway through his project the author ran out of cash and his next funders for the project made it a proviso for their funding that he should change focus to organ harvesting. Given that Falun Gong is a religion / sect / faith that not only mandates daily exercises but also forbids drugs and alcohol, its adherents make for some extremely high quality potential organ donors and that's where the Venn diagrams meet: a book that is about organ harvesting in China is very much also a book about the organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners. They not only represent a high percentage of the Laogai (jail) system population, but also the cream of the pool of organs, so to speak.
So what we have here is one of those books that present themselves rarely: a lot how "the Great Deformation" by David Stockman is a poorly-written, poorly argued, discursive bad read but is regardless the best book of 2013 because it is to this day the only place where you can go read (if you know where to look and skip a lot of the dross) exactly what Corporate Equity Withdrawal is and how it is the most accurate description of what is wrong with our current brand of capitalism, a lot like if you wanted to read what "pushing on a string" means you once had to read John Maynard Keynes' truly awful, dense and self-important "General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money," I'm afraid that if you want to read about the persecution of Falun Gong, the persecution of the Uighurs or one single interview about organ harvesting in China, Ethan Gutmann's book is the only show in town. And you get 50 interviews.
Now, 50 interviews is nothing, I hear you say. Not so, I'd argue. In a world where David Cameron, the prime minister of the United Kindgom had to go on all fours to China to beg for forgiveness for having previously muttered something about human rights, in a world where (contrary to the very well-articulated warnings of important thinkers such as Daron Acemoglu) we pretend that we will transform the Chinese dictatorship by doing business with China, a guy who publishes the results of 50 interviews that prove beyond reasonable doubt that China is
(i) viciously persecuting a cult with 50+ million members
(ii) engaging in systematic organ harvesting for profit
is clearly somebody with enough courage to merit everybody's respect. There's tons of money to be made writing books which explain how China will lead the world, how it has the model that points to the future etc. A guy who has that opportunity but choses instead to live a life of relative poverty and research human rights abuses deserves our recognition and respect.
Here's a wonderful piece of circumstantial evidence in support of the author's thesis: Israel does not allow its citizens to travel to China for transplants.
And now I know how come the Chinese lead the world in immunosuppressants: practice makes perfect, they say. How disgusting!
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|Record ID: 1538970691R006||From: 台灣|