China's hospitals prepped for organ transplants

09:32, May 04, 2011      

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The Ministry of Health is set to approve new organ-transplant hospitals under a one-year pilot project, on condition they only use donated organs from the country's voluntary organ donation system run by the ministry and the Red Cross Society of China.

China has 164 hospitals authorized to practice transplants, but they have been relying on death row inmates as a major source of organ donations.

"Although written consent is required, the fact that China remains the only country in the world counting on executed prisoners for organ donations has seriously tarnished its image, particularly abroad," said Qiu Renzong, a bioethics researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The nationwide donation system is now on trial in selected regions and only deals with voluntary donors, mainly after cardiac deaths, a division director with the ministry told China Daily on Tuesday on condition of anonymity.

Executed prisoners are not included.

"The new initiative aims to further encourage development of the fledging organ donation system through better cooperation from medical institutions," he said.

Welcoming the move, Qiu said: "only a well-functioning public voluntary organ donation system can help sustain healthy development for transplants and save more patients who die waiting for a matching organ."

According to Vice-Minister of Health Huang Jiefu, given that countries are moving to abolish the death penalty, including China, using organs from executed prisoners is not reliable and may lead to ethical debates.

According to the notice, large hospitals across the country can now apply to provincial health administrations, and the list of authorized hospitals will probably be publicized around July, said a notice from the ministry on Tuesday.

Living organ transplants are prohibited, it said.

Worldwide, living organ donation is a last resort as it inevitably leads to donor complications, experts said.

Meanwhile, it can also lead to illegal human organ trafficking.

In a court case in May 2010, an illegal agency had part of the liver of an unemployed man cut out for 40,000 yuan ($6,150).

Estimates hold that 1.5 million Chinese need transplants each year but only 10,000 of them can obtain a suitable organ.

Source:China Daily
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