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Death Penalty Information

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

China: ethical issues around organ donations from executed prisoners
ORGAN DONATION Ethical issue in China shrouded by secrecy; Dark side of
transplants---- Citizens join critics who question organ harvesting
practices in Chinese prisons.

Meng Zhaoping is trying to argue her way past a security guard at the
provincial high court for the second day in a row.
All she wants is an audience with a court officer, she says. All she has
are 2 questions: Why was her son put to death? What happened to his body?
The answer to the 1st question is in the charge sheet: He knifed a man to
death in a brawl. The 2nd answer, she is convinced, lies in a
much-criticized Chinese practice: taking organs from executed prisoners
for transplants.
Since her son was executed in January 2005, Meng has been searching for an
explanation. She never saw his body, which was taken to a crematorium.
By then, Meng thinks, his body had been stripped of its organs.
She has no direct evidence, but the secrecy in which China has shrouded
the issue has long bred suspicions. Medical and human rights groups say it
is opaque, profit-driven and indifferent to medical ethics.
What's new is that these critics are being joined by ordinary Chinese such
as Meng, a 53-year-old apple farmer from the fringe of the Gobi Desert.
Much of the furor surrounds the use of organs mostly kidneys, livers and
corneas from executed prisoners who may not have given their permission.
Although few involved in China's transplant trade talk openly about it,
Beijing has begun to respond to criticisms.
This month, the State Council, China's cabinet, formalized Health Ministry
rules issued last year that ban the sale of organs and require donors to
supply written permission.
But the regulations do not mention prisoners.
Health officials say the country faces a severe organ shortage: 1.5
million people need transplants in China each year, and only about 10,000
operations are carried out.
Wealthy Chinese and foreigners are willing to pay hundreds of thousands of
dollars. Brokers can arrange transplants in weeks.
"Theres a very clear demand, and where there's a demand, there's a
market," says Henk Bekedam, head of the World Health Organizations China
office. "This is a market that needs to be very strongly regulated in
order to guide it properly."
Restrictions on U.S. inmates
In the United States, federal prisons ban inmates from donating organs
except to a close relative.
States ban the transplanting of organs from death row prisoners, and
occasional moves by some states to ease the ban have failed.
(source: Associated Press)
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