China to scrap organ harvesting from executed prisoners

Updated: 2014-12-04 15:27


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China will stop using executed prisoners as a source of organ transplants from next year, a former official of the Health Ministry said on Wednesday, according to a report by China Business Network.

From Jan 1, 2015, all the organs needed in transplants will come solely from voluntary donations from citizens, Huang Jiefu, former vice-minister of Health said at a seminar by China's Organ Procurement Organization (OPO) held in Kunming.

At the two CPC sessions in 2012, Huang told Beijing Times that the lack of organs caused a bottleneck in organ transplants. Because of insufficient donations, executed prisoners became the main source of organs.

"Every year, around 300,000 patients need organ transplants but only 10,000 surgeries are performed," said Huang at the seminar.

Chinese people are much less willing to donate their organs after death compared to other countries, with the ratio being only 6 out of 10,000,000, Huang said.

"The ratio in Spain is 370 out of the same amount, which is almost 62 times that of China", he added.

Speaking of the reasons behind the low participation, Huang said Chinese traditions and the fairness of organ distribution are the top two concerns, with the latter being particularly important.

For quite some time, the organ transplant situation in China has been messy, with a lot of illegal trades taking place on the black market and even in licensed hospitals, where it is quite common for people to take advantage of organ scarcity to make profit, the report says.

"Before 2007, more than 600 medical organizations could deal with organ transplants," Huang said, "Driven by financial benefits, many illegal acts happened and nonstandard surgeries were performed."

Among the problems is the use of executed prisoners' organs, he said. In China, about 65% of transplanted organs are from the deceased, with executed prisoners the source of more than 90% of them, said an article by Huang.

According to relevant regulations issued in 1984, the prisoners' bodies can be used for organ transplant only under certain conditions, e.g. if no one collects the body, the criminal agrees or his family agrees to the medical use of the body.

However, it is questionable whether the prisoners are making the agreement out of their own will and using their organs has become an unspoken rule to ease the demand in the market, the report said.

The State Council passed the Regulations on Human Organ Transplant on March 2007, providing a legal basis to supervise transplants.

Huang said that these regulations are being amended and will be renamed as "Donations and transplant of human organs in China", in order to make voluntary donations the only source of organs.

Prisoners are still among the qualified candidates for donations, but their organs will be registered in the computerized system instead of being used for private trades, which will be the main difference in the future, Huang told reporters.

New regulations will be unveiled to clarify the legal procedures of organ donations for prisoners sentenced to death and those who violate them will be given harsh punishment, the report said.

At the same time, the Committee of Human Organ Donation and Transplant and China's Organ Procurement Organization were founded this year, with the former responsible for making policies and regulations and the OPO mainly in charge of the donation and transplant procedures, in order to make it more fair, efficient and transparent.

Data released at the seminar shows that 1500 donations have been made this year, more than the total donations from 2010 to 2013.

"I believe the situation of organ donations will get better and better in the future", Huang said.

Reportedly, 38 organ transplant centers in the country have already discontinued the use of executed prisoners' organs.