Saturday, May 31, 2008

China/ Dead Bodies: Chinese transplant politics.

Two articles on the sale of human organs for transplant in China.

A careful reading will reveal that, according to these sources, both of which seem legitimate and reliable, sale of human organs for transplant was banned in China in 2006 and further restricted in 2007. Clearly, this does not make a great deal of sense and is one of the things that makes studying China so difficult. My guess is that the apparent contradiction hinges on the way in which in China, and many countries, laws are passed and then ignored and not enforced. Just one of many China-related issues that requires further study to understand completely.

Peter Huston

China Tightens Restrictions on Transplants
New Rules Aim to Curb Sale of Organs, Give Priority to Chinese Over Foreigners

By Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, July 4, 2007; Page A12

BEIJING, July 3 -- The Chinese government imposed new restrictions on organ transplants for foreigners Tuesday, part of an effort to curtail widely reported abuses such as selling organs and, in some hospitals, catering to foreigners looking for discount hearts, livers and kidneys.

The regulations, handed down by the Health Ministry, stipulate that foreigners visiting China on tourist visas cannot receive transplants, hospitals cannot advertise abroad and any hospital planning to carry out a transplant on a foreign patient must first get authorization from Chinese health authorities.

The tightening complemented a broader set of regulations that went into force May 1.

"Chinese citizens, including those from Hong Kong and Macau and Taiwanese permanent residents in China, should get priority in organ transplants," the Health Ministry said in a statement Tuesday. "Health institutions and personnel that violate organ transplant regulations must be severely dealt with according to the law."

Chinese health officials have estimated that as many as 1.5 million Chinese could benefit from transplants each year, but only about 10,000 can find compatible organs. The number of foreigners who receive transplanted organs in China has not been revealed. But some hospitals have launched advertising campaigns on the Internet to draw in foreigners, who often would face longer waits and higher prices in their own countries.

The regulations imposed in May said only a certain number of hospitals would be authorized to perform transplants. The Beijing Municipal Health Bureau announced last month, for example, that 13 hospitals had been chosen for the service in the capital. Approximately 600 hospitals nationwide applied to get on the list.

Transplants have long been a controversial issue in China because of allegations that organs are often taken from executed prisoners without their authorization, and thus are more plentiful here than abroad. Chinese officials have acknowledged that some organs used for transplants come from executed prisoners, but they say the number of such cases is low and prior authorization is required.

The Epoch Times, a newspaper published overseas and linked to the banned Falun Gong movement, last year accused Chinese authorities of running a secret camp in northeastern Shenyang where Falun Gong detainees allegedly were killed to provide organs for sale. The Foreign Ministry dismissed the allegations as slander by an illegal cult, which is how authorities here have defined the Falun Gong, and foreign reporters taken to tour the facility found nothing out of the ordinary.

China's tradition of official secrecy has allowed such allegations to flourish, however, because no one knows how many prisoners are executed each year or how many prisoners' organs are taken for transplants.

Estimates on the number of executions range from 3,000 to 8,000 a year. International human rights groups say organs often come from executed prisoners and voice concern that the wishes of prisoners or their families are sometimes ignored.

China bans sales of human transplant organs
New laws attempt to clean up poorly regulated, profit-driven business

updated 12:10 p.m. ET, Tues., March. 28, 2006

SHANGHAI, China - China’s Health Ministry has explicitly banned sales of human organs in an apparent attempt to clean up the country’s lucrative but laxly regulated transplant business.

New regulations viewed on the Health Ministry’s Web site Tuesday forbid the buying and selling of organs and require that donors give written permission for their organs to be transplanted.

While China has long defended its transplant business as legal, little information about it is publicly available. Critics contend it is profit-driven with little regard for medical ethics.
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Chinese legislators have been pushing for years for a law to regulate and promote voluntary organ donations. However, the Health Ministry regulation — to take effect on July 1 — was officially titled a “temporary regulation,” suggesting that further legislation could follow.

The Health Ministry had no comment. Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters a more permanent regulation on organ transplants was being drafted.

The true number of transplants carried out annually isn’t known, although a professional group, the Chinese Society of Transplantation, says about 5,000 kidney transplants and 1,500 liver transplants were carried out in 2003.

Written permission required
Human rights groups say many organs — including those transplanted into wealthy foreigners — come from executed prisoners who may not have given their permission, claims China routinely denies. Voluntary donations remain far below demand, partly because of cultural biases against organ removal.

Safety concerns about the transplant industry also have surfaced. Last month, Japan announced it was examining cases involving at least eight Japanese patients who received organ transplants in China and later fell seriously ill or died from infections and other problems after returning home.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman repeated China’s insistence that all organ transplants were conducted with the permission of the donor.

“It is a complete fabrication, a lie or slander to say that China forcibly takes organs from the people convicted of the death penalty for the purpose of transplanting them,” Qin said.

The new Chinese rules limit transplant surgery to top-ranked institutions that must verify the organs are from legal sources and that the procedure is safe and justified.

Transplant hospitals must keep specialists on staff and have all the required medical equipment, according to the rules. Hospital transplant ethics committees must approve all such surgeries in advance, and institutions where patients die shortly after having transplants will be banned from conducting such surgeries.

“The rule explicitly states that human organs cannot be bought or sold; medical institutions must obtain written permission from donors for any transplant of organs for clinical purposes; donors have the right to refuse to donate organs prior to the organ transplant,” the ministry said in an introduction to the rules.

The rules “aim to organize and strengthen management of human organ transplant technology for clinical use, assure the quality and safety of treatment and protect patient health,” it said.
© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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