05/02/2007, 00.00
CHINA
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Human organ trade officially banned in China

China’s authorities have been accused of allowing the use of organs harvested from prisoners and road accidents victims without their consent. Doctors involved will now lose their licence to practice; public officials will go to jail. For experts the problem remains: how to trace organs’ provenance.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – China has formally banned trading in human organs amid allegations that public officials and doctors are heavily involved in harvesting body parts from executed prisoners and car accident victims.

Under the new regulations doctors found to be involved in such activities will have their licences revoked, whilst clinics or hospitals would be suspended from doing organ transplant operations for at least three years. Officials convicted of trading in human organs will be arrested and kicked out of the government. Everyone will be fined eight to ten times the value of the outlawed trade.

The authorities have long been accused of harvesting organs from executed prisoners and road accident victims for transplant without the consent of the prisoners or their families.

In the past the government has denied such charges, saying organs are voluntarily donated by ordinary citizens and executed criminals who gave consent before their deaths. But in November it had to admit that most organs came from executed prisoners without their consent and accused surgeons.

Despite the acknowledgement for experts the problem remains, namely how to accurately trace organs.

Foreign patients facing a shortage of compatible organs in their home countries have flocked to China for transplant. This has made the country the world’s second largest performer of transplants after the United States, with about 5,000 operations carried out on annual basis.

However, China itself has about 1.5 million patients in need of a transplant each year, but only 10,000 organs are found, a figure that is different from the annual number of operations.

Organ sales are advertised on Chinese websites (on average, US$ 65,000 for a kidney and US$ 140,000/160,000 for a heart).

Last year Beijing had already adopted another regulation in force since July 1 that required transplants be performed only in hospitals, by specialised doctors and with organs coming from donors alone. However, it failed to have any real result since the authorities have had to adopt a stricter set of rules.

The new ban does not apply to transplants of human tissue such as cells, corneas or bone marrow.

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