Trial focuses on organ trafficking ethics

Updated: 2010-05-19 00:00
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Beijing— Illegal human organ trafficking is again being highlighted in China, as the second such case went to trial on Tuesday in a Beijing court.

The trials have triggered a hot debate on whether the unlawful practice helps sick people in need of transplants, or simply gives a few people illegal profits.

The hearing for Zeng Kangkang, 22, who has been charged with illegal human organ trafficking to the tune of 130,000 yuan, came after the first case was heard on April 15 in the capital city. 

Although the judgment for the two cases will be made at a later date, Zhong Lijun, the prosecutor in the People’s Procuratorate of Haidian District, said lawbreakers will face sentences of up to five years considering their actions’ damage to society and moral ethics.

The two defendants involved in the first case said they felt “wronged” since their business helps those who are sick, the Procuratorial Daily reported on Tuesday.

Liu Yu (a pseudonym, due to the sensitivity of the case), one of the defendants, started his business less than a year ago. He said he never thought that acting as a go-between between human organ donors and the recipients was illegal, the report said.

Liu began to consider the organ trafficking trade in 2008 when his father was to have an operation and a large sum of money was urgently needed.

Liu said his family could not afford the surgery, so he decided to sell half his liver, keeping it a secret from his family.

“It (the operation) really affected me a lot. In the three to four months after the operation, I was in so much pain that I could not stand up straight. And since then, I have had much worse health than before,” he was quoted as saying.

However, Liu said he never felt regret after his doctor told him a 30-year old recipient, who suffered from liver cancer, could live with his liver.

Liu received his first request for an organ transplant in March 2009 when he was recuperating in Beijing after the operation.

“The recipient of my liver called me and asked whether I could find another person willing to sell his liver, since his friend had been waiting for more than five months,” he said.

“I believed I was helping people, not harming others,” he said.  As a human organ agent, many people think he asks for sky-high prices, but that is not true, he said.

“For instance, when a recipient pays 150,000 yuan ($21,968) for a human organ, I will only earn about 10,000 yuan in the end since most of the payment was used for the operation, medical treatment, food and lodgings, and a reward to the donor,” he said.

A Yang (a pseudonym), Liu’s partner, who took care of the donors, said he never realized he was committing a crime.

“All the donors volunteered and they were found by chatting on the Internet. Most of them needed money and my work was to take care of their daily life and arrange for them to match suitable recipients,” he said.

Organ trading was banned in China in May 2007. Only family members are allowed to donate organs to patients in need.

But in the illegal trade, agents for selling human organs provide fake documents saying that the donor is a relative of the patient.

The Ministry of Health estimates that 2 million Chinese need organ transplants each year, but only 20,000 operations are performed because of a severe shortage of donors.

Qiu Zhiying, a prosecutor in the People’s Procuratorate of Haidian District, said many people do not realize that human organ trading is illegal.

“Since most trades were done through the Internet, the police should crack down on this online activity in the future,” she said.

Liu Changqiu, researcher from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said people more readily accept organ donations from those who recently died. He recommended campaigns urging people to sign up to donate their organs upon death.


Jin Zhu and Zhang Yan China Daily