Fifteen doctors compose the renal transplant team which harvests the kidneys. One doctor, using the pseudonym Dr. Lim, says he has participated in six kidney extractions during his twelve years of practice. When it is his turn in the rotation Dr. Lim and his associates arrive at Changi Prison at 5:30 a.m. Executions are carried out exactly at 6 a.m.
Participating doctors are served breakfast in the prison cafeteria while waiting for their subjects to be hanged. Dr. Lim describes the mood during the wait.
“By 6 a.m., the whole place will be very solemn and the gates will be closed. There is minimal movement in the prison complex. I’m not sure if this is out of respect for the person to be hanged.”
Once the execution is carried out the mood quickly changes from solemn to frenetic. Dr Lim explains that organs will become damaged from lack of blood flow if not harvested quickly. Under conventional circumstances, in a hospital, organs can be removed once a patient is declared brain-dead. Extracting organs from executed prisoners can only take place after cardiac death. For this reason a doctor is checking the hanged man for a heartbeat even before the mask is removed from his head.
The process of extracting organs from executed prisoners bas become so commonplace that each team has its own protocol. Renal surgeons get to the body first because the kidneys are the most easily damaged from lack of blood flow. Dr. Lim says the entire kidney extraction process takes about 20 minutes.
“It is not a very difficult or complicated job. We are just like technicians, cutting and removing.”
Eye surgeons and plastic surgeons are next followed by the surgeons who remove the long-bones containing the marrow. According to Dr. Lim it is not unusual to have two teams working on a body simultaneously especially when two or more prisoners are executed on the same morning.
Once a prisoner has been declared dead his body is removed from the noose, wrapped in cloth and taken to one of Changi Prison’s new operating rooms.
“At the old Changi prison, we operated from an air-conditioned container room,” says Lim. “It had two little operating tables, a changing area and a wash basin.”
Dr. Lim said that in years past doctors were also responsible for delivering the organs to the waiting hospital using their personal cars. “The junior doctor would usually be the driver,” he said. “But we made noise. We have already done our job harvesting the kidneys and after that we still have to deliver them.”
The doctors certainly had a right to complain since their services inside the prison are strictly voluntary. All parties concerned insist that prisoners’ organ donations are voluntary as well.
If a condemned prisoner desires to donate his organs he will communicate that request to prison officials and the process is arranged by the Ministry of Health.
At least that’s how the story goes. It was not long ago that China admitted to illegally harvesting organs from executed prisoners. One company developed several specially built ambulances for that purpose. China executes more prisoners than any country in the world. Its imprisonment rates are well below the United States’ though.
Source: Asia One
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