3 December, 2005

beijing mulls new legislation on organ translants from death row inmates

The Chinese government is considering new legislation to regulate China’s market for transplant organs - particularly those coming from death row inmates:

The Chinese government has admitted that most human organs used for transplants in China are those of executed prisoners, and has promised to expedite new legislation that would regulate the market for those organs.

Vice Minister of Health Huang Jiefu acknowledged the use of prisoners’ organs in his remarks at the International Conference on Liver Transplants in July. He reiterated both the problem and the government’s commitment to improving oversight at another international conference in Manila earlier this month. China has finished its first draft of the regulations, Huang said, which will be submitted to the State Council for review. He told Caijing in an exclusive interview that he hopes the new regulations will help improve China’s image in the organ transplant field.

Geneva-based WHO representative Luc Noel said China’s “unequivocal commitment” was a hopeful sign. It will come not a moment too soon, as the number of organ transplants in China has soared over the last decade. China is now second only to the US, with approximately 60,000 kidney transplants, 6,000 liver transplants and 250 heart transplants since 1993.

But because Chinese medical scholars seldom publish about those transplants in internationally-recognized peer-review publications, the international community generally does not recognize China’s role in organ transplants despite the growing demand here. That is primarily because researchers cannot identify the source of the organs used in transplant procedures, because the practice of using executed prisoners’ organs is ethically questionable. But Huang argued that the Chinese protocol does in fact meet international standards of medical ethics, and that no organs are harvested without consent from either the condemned prisoners themselves or from their families (emphasis mine).

I have to admit to some ignorance on this issue because while I have heard a great deal about orgran transplants in China and the fact that the majority of those transplants tend to come from codemned inmates, I’ve never heard the stating that such transplants only taking place with the consent of either the prisoner or their family.

At any rate, I’m sure the international community will welcome Beijing’s moves to regulate China’s organ market with open arms.

by @ 7:29 am. Filed under China

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