By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
BEIJING, China – About two-thirds of all transplant organs in China are provided by executed prisoners. However, this will soon change as the Chinese government is launching a voluntary organ donor program so as to stop harvesting organs from black market sellers and executed prisoners.
In China, at least one million people are in need of organ transplants annually, but only about 10,000 actually receive organ transplants. Such scarcity of available organs has led to corruption and a thriving black market for trafficked organs despite the fact that Chinese officials passed a law in 2007 banning organ trafficking.
By creating an organ donation system, Vice Minister of Health Hugan Jiefu hopes that such program “will benefit patients regardless of social status and wealth.”
Furthermore, human rights groups have criticized the lack of transparency in China’s organ donation program and have been extremely concerned with the use of body parts from executed prisoners. A Chinese newspaper, citing anonymous sources, reported that more than 65% of organ donations came from executed prisoners.
Nicholas Bequelin at Human Rights Watch said, “If you’re a prisoner and you’re about to be executed, you do not have a real choice, especially in a system…(that) is completely untransparent and notorious for abuses against prisoners, as the Chinese system is.”
Minister Huang has stated that prisoners were “definitely not a proper source for organ transplants.” Therefore, the new organ donation scheme is to reduce reliance of organ donation from death row prisoners and to combat the illegal trafficking of organs.
This new organ donation program will initially start pilot programs in ten provinces and cities where financial aid will be provided to donors’ families before being instituted nationwide. Since 2003, only 130 people in mainland China have signed up to become organ donors
For more information, please see:
Al Jazeera – China launches organ donor scheme – 27 August 2009
BBC – China admits death row organ use – 26 August 2009
NYT – China Announces a System for Voluntary Organ Donors – 26 August 2009
USA Today – China sets up national organ bank to reduce dependence on prison donors – 27 August 2009