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China: Citizens Call for Public Monitoring of Organ Transplantation

China's Ministry of Health (MOH) has confirmed [zh] the open secret that most of the organs used in transplant surgeries are harvested from death row inmates in China, in a group meeting of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) held on March 7, 2012.

Since 2006, the Chinese authority has denied the fact that transplanted organs are harvested from executed criminals, insisting that such accusations are slander from western media.

Now, however, the deputy director of MOH has finally admitted that given the lack of donated organs, executed criminals have become the main source of organs used in transplant operations in China. According to statistics uncovered by local magazine Caijing in February 2012, an average of 10,000 organ transplant surgeries are performed in China each year, and currently a total of 1.5 million Chinese people are awaiting for the surgery. As a result of the huge demand and profit, illegal organ transplant operations have now entered the market.

According to Caijing's report:

Low supply and high demand has allowed a select few to reap high profits: “donors” generally only receive about 20,000 yuan for their kidneys while recipients must often pay more than 200,000 yuan for transplants. The difference is divided among doctors, hospitals and brokers. High profits have attracted a large number of brokers who not only cater to domestic market demand, but also organize foreigners to travel to China for illegal transplant surgery.

Such illegal organ transplant network accounts for stories such as a teenage kid selling his kidney for an iPad2 last year, or a man in Shenzhen who last month sold one of his and then tried to cover it up.

Shortly after the news that criminals’ organs are harvested was confirmed, many netizens raised questions about the procedure of securing agreement from inmates. Weibo user Xue Chuan, for one, is stunned [zh] by the connection between the death penalty and organ transplants:


1. The vested interest is so obvious. The more death sentences, the more profitable the business becomes. 2. Who share the profits? — this is too terrifying.

Xie Youping from Shanghai wonders [zh]:


Time to think: 1. Did the family agree to the organ transplant operation? 2. For those without family, which institution decides on behalf of executed criminals how their organs are to be used? 3. If the family doesn't claim the body, who then benefits from the organ transplant?

Human rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan questions [zh] whether criminals really had a choice in the matter, given their circumstances:


For those who receive the death penalty, they have no bargaining power in prison. To prevent judicial authorities from forcing criminals to donate organs, family members should bear witness to the signing of donation agreements.

Menglixunmeng was looking toward [zh] more systematic monitoring of organ transplant in China:


The open confirmation of the harvesting of executed criminals’ organs would help bring about the development of a transparent system for monitoring organ transplants. The public should have the right to know, and criminals facing execution should have the right to choose. Authorities should develop a law to restrict organ transplants and bring down the illegal organ transplant network.

According to MOH, no transparent system to match patients with organ donors exists in China, but authorities will develop a mechanism in collaboration with the Red Cross China in the near future.

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