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Foreigners take a back seat to Chinese in organ transplants
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13:28, July 04, 2007

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 Chinese hospitals banned from carrying out organ transplants for foreigners without permission
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Medical institutions must give priority to Chinese citizens - and not foreigners - for organ transplants, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said yesterday.

It is estimated that 2 million Chinese need transplants each year, but only 20,000 operations are conducted because of a shortage of organs, according to Vice-Minister of Health Huang Jiefu.

Foreigners are forbidden from coming on so-called medical tours for transplants; but in special circumstances, can apply to Chinese hospitals.

Their cases will be appraised by provincial medical authorities and final approval is needed from the Ministry of Health before surgery.

MOH spokesman Mao Qun'an said that the procedure does not mean that the government is easing the ban on foreign patients seeking organ transplants on visit visas.

The move is more out of humanitarian considerations, he explained.

But Zhang Lei, a leading organ transplant surgeon at Beijing Friendship Hospital, suggested that foreigners have the operation in their country of residence because of follow-up treatment.

"We always give priority to Chinese patients for organ transplants," Zhang said.

However, he noted that some domestic hospitals seek foreign patients to make profits, and some brokers rake in a lot by organizing organ transplants for overseas patients.

"The world is getting flat but globalization in the medical sector, to some extent, denies a fair chance for Chinese nationals."

A rising number of well-off foreigners have come to China for kidney, liver, and other organ transplants, lured by the illegal availability of organs, rapidly improving medical facilities and first-class surgical skills.

Most are from the Middle East and neighboring countries such as Japan and South Korea. The cost is only a fraction of what it is in their home countries.

More than 3,000 South Koreans, according to media reports in the country, had organ transplant operations in China in the past three years.

A leading kidney specialist in Malaysia reportedly said that more than 1,000 Malaysians have had kidney transplants in China in recent years.

China's regulations on human organ transplants, which prohibit organizations and individuals from trading human organs in any form, took effect in May.

Currently, about 160 Chinese medical institutions are authorized to provide the service.

Source: China Daily

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