Beijing (AsiaNews) - The Red Cross and the Chinese Ministry of Health have announced the launch of a system to regulate the donation of organs. The plan aims to curb the illegal trafficking of organs and encourage more people to act as donors. The pilot initiative will be implemented primarily in 10 provinces: Liaoning, Zhejiang, Shandong, Guangdong, Jiangxi and the cities of Tianjin, Shanghai, Xiamen, Nanjing and Wuhan.
According to Huang Jiefu, vice-minister of health, the program should allow for an acceptable and ethical system of organ donation in China and around the world, eliminating organ trafficking, "transplant tourism" and ensuring a high quality in surgery.
The new system allows the registration of donors and the transplant patients, ensuring the rights of both.
The issue of organ transplants in China has two major problems. First of all organs transplanted are mostly taken from people condemned to death, often without their consent or without that of family members. Secondly, very often the transplants are carried out to supply foreigners who can pay handsomely for the organ and the operation, but penalizing the local people in need of a transplant. Until two years ago, the cost for a kidney transplant was 62 thousand dollars, for the heart it was 140 thousand U.S. dollars.
According to official figures, until last year, there were 86,800 kidney transplants in China, 14,643 liver transplants, 882 heart and lung transplants, more than 220 transplants of other organs.
Government estimates say there are at least 1.5 million Chinese who are waiting for a transplant, but the official operations carried out each year arrive at only 10 thousand.
Finding volunteer donors is very difficult: Chinese culture does not accept the removal of organs from dead people. In addition to the removal of organs from executed prisoners, poverty is opening another channel of supply. Many parents pay for college for children or improve the economic conditions of the family, offering to sell their organs.
Many hospitals perform transplant operations illegally. The new legislation should wipe out this trade. A similar regulation was already launched in 2007, but without much success