Govt seeks fairness in organ donor system for inmates

Updated: 2014-03-07 07:20

By Shan Juan (China Daily USA)

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China is set to further strengthen the regulation of organ donations from executed prisoners and integrate it into the existing public voluntary organ donation and allocation system, according to a political adviser close to the situation.

Huang Jiefu, director of the China Organ Donation Committee and former vice-minister of health, made the remarks on Tuesday on the sidelines of the ongoing two sessions.

"By doing that, organs from death-row inmates used for life-saving operations are secured in a fair, transparent, and corruption-free manner," he said.

Previously, organ donations from executed prisoners were handled inappropriately by "some doctors and law enforcement officers", which might lead to malpractice and corruption, he said.

To end that, "we will regulate the issue by including voluntary organ donations by executed prisoners in the nation's public organ donation system to help ensure an open and fair practice", he said.

China launched the system in 2010 to make it easier for the public to donate organs and ensure the organs are given based on need rather than the "highest bidders".

As of Sunday, 1,570 organ donations had been facilitated via the system, according to Huang.

Donations from executed prisoners were initially not covered by the system. Zhu Jiye, director of the liver and gallbladder surgical department of Peking University People's Hospital, called for changes to the system, to ensure that death-row inmates are not coerced into donating organs.

"We respect their right to donate, but it must be voluntary and their donated organs should be used fairly," he said.

According to Zhu, transplant surgery using organ donations from death-row inmates has declined in recent years, and there were only two such operations at his hospital last year.

Huang added: "China is gradually moving away from a long-term reliance on executed prisoners as a major source for organ donations."

In November, 38 out of the 165 transplant centers in China signed a declaration vowing to stop using donated organs from executed prisoners, according to Huang.

He expects that procedures that include the procurement and allocation of organs from inmates who have been executed will be integrated into the national system soon.

"We've reached consensus with the legal and law enforcement departments on that," he said.

To ensure that donations are voluntary, written consent from the inmate and the family is required, he said.

Another source who didn't want to be named but is close to the situation said written consent from the executed prisoner's lawyer will be added as well.

Also, only designated organ procurement organizations will be allowed to approach law enforcement departments regarding the issue, Huang said.

Most importantly, "donated organs from executed prisoners will be put into a computerized system to ensure fair allocation", he said.

"Any organ donations, including those by executed prisoners, have to go through the system and the computerized allocation process," he added.

Statistics from the National Health and Family Planning Commission show that about 300,000 Chinese people need organ transplants every year.

However, only around 10,000 eventually receive one.

(China Daily USA 03/07/2014 page5)