Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on February 18, 2008
I once interviewed a Western entrepreneur doing business in China who had hoped to get into the business of helping people from the U.S., Japan and other countries in need of organ transplants travel to China. It seemed like a good idea at first, since Chinese hospitals were much less expensive than those overseas and patients who couldn’t find donors at home would be able to receive organs from Chinese donors. The businessman would be aiding desperately sick people, help China’s health-care sector grow, and make some money all at once. But the entrepreneur said it didn’t take him long to realize just how difficult the business would be, given the possibility that some of the organs would be coming from executed prisoners. That was a risk he didn’t want to take.
I thought about him today when I read the latest about the growing scandal involving companies in the West that exhibit plastinated bodies from China. As I wrote here a few weeks ago, garish shows of skinless bodies in strange poses have caught the fancy of many museum goers in the West. But increasingly, government officials are asking questions about the source of these cadavers. The latest: New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is now investigating Premier Exhibitions, one of the two leaders in the industry. Cuomo is following up on an ABC News report last week questioning how companies obtained the cadavers. ABC quoted Harry Wu, the longtime Beijing critic and U.S.-based human-rights activist, suggesting that the bodies were of executed prisoners.
That’s a charge that Premier denies. In a statement on the company’s website, Premier calls the accusations “baseless claims” planted by a competitor “to suit his own agenda.” The company adds that it employs a team of experts who examine the cadavers sourced from China to ensure that they did not die from “trauma, serious bodily injury, torture or execution.” “All of these specimens died of natural causes,” Premier adds, “and despite extensive investigation, Premier has found no credible evidence to suggest otherwise.”
No doubt Cuomo’s office is focusing on the word “credible” in that statement. Did Premier find no evidence at all? If so, why add the otherwise unnecessary adjective? Or did it find some evidence that for certain reasons the company decided was not credible?
Premier’s shareholders are certainly worried. The stock price plummeted 23% on Friday and has plunged almost 61% since the start of the year.