WASHINGTON -- Chinese pharmaceutical companies are grinding up dead babies into stamina-enhancing pills, according to a South Korean television network.
A documentary team from SBS TV, formerly known as Seoul Broadcasting Station, reported on the gruesome practice, according to the International Business Times (IBT), an online business newspaper published in 10 languages.
Hospitals and abortion clinics in China cooperating in the trade quickly contact drug firms when a baby dies. The deaths normally are by still birth or abortion. The companies reportedly buy the corpses, store them secretly in refrigerators, place them in medical drying microwaves and grind them into powder. The powder is placed in capsules for sale as stamina boosters, it was reported.
"These babies deserve a decent burial; instead they are ground up for someone's fountain-of-life elixir," said ethicist Ben Mitchell, who added that there have been other cases of people using embryonic or fetal tissue for cosmetic purposes.
"It's barbaric. Not only is this the logical conclusion of forfeiting the sanctity of human life," said Mitchell, professor of moral philosophy at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and a consultant to Southern Baptists' Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, "but it is also why we ought always to require pharmaceuticals to be produced in the light of day where everyone can see the source of their drugs.
The Global Times, a Chinese English-language newspaper, reported that an undercover SBS TV team followed a source to a house in China where a woman said she had stored dead babies in her refrigerator as ingredients for the pills. The team purchased some pills directly from the woman and sent one to South Korea's National Forensic Service, where DNA tests showed they were 99.7 percent human. IBT reported that even the baby's gender could be identified and that the tests also revealed hair and nail particles in the powder.
"I know this is gross and disturbing," Thomas Peters, cultural director at the National Organization for Marriage, wrote in a blog post for the pro-life organization Live Action, "but this sort of practice is the danger we run as a society when we cease to respect human life at all stages -- we can be misled into treating unborn children like 'raw material' and not like the unique human beings they are from their first moment."
The Global Times reported on Aug. 10 that China's Ministry of Health said it has launched an investigation into SBS' claims.
"China has strict regulations on disposing of the remains of infants, fetuses and placentas," health ministry spokesman Deng Haihua said at a news conference, according to the Global Times. "We are firmly against the trading of human bodies or organs."
While the Global Times says Chinese laws and regulations prohibit human corpses from being traded or treated as medical waste, the paper also reported that the remains of infants have been mishandled in the past, citing 21 corpses dumped in a river by hospital workers in 2010.
IBT reported that SBS also alleged there is a business network between China and South Korea to satisfy demand for the baby capsules in the South Korean market.
A South Korean embassy official told the Global Times on condition of anonymity that the South Korean government is aware of the baby capsule reports and is investigating.
"South Korean customs are trying to track down any buyers or sellers," the official said. "The authorities do not have any evidence so far that supports the documentary's allegation, but human ingredients would certainly be considered illegal in South Korea -- if it is really happening."