Background: Journal articles are a tool by which transplant centers promote their programs; thus, publication of clinical or research data obtained via unethical practices propels the work of these programs while undermining the integrity of the journals. We explored the publishing practices of authors affiliated with Chinese hospitals that admitted to unethical transplant practices in a prior human rights investigation ("Matas-Kilgour Report").
Methods: Transplant articles indexed in Pubmed and published by authors affiliated with eight Chinese hospitals identified in the Matas-Kilgour Report were reviewed for content pertaining to donor organ source and donor/family consent. Also, the publication policies of the journals that published these articles were reviewed for ethics requirements.
Results: Physicians from four of the eight hospitals published 42 articles in14 journals. Six articles appeared to be duplicate publications. Six articles were published in medical journals affiliated with the hospital at which the transplants occurred. None of the articles reviewed mentioned informed consent or research review board approval.
Conclusions: Unethical transplant practices lead to publication in journals that have weak ethical standards, lax enforcement of ethical standards, and no or low Impact Factors.