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10 mln yuan organ case set for trial in Beijing

By Yang Jinghao (Global Times)

08:49, March 01, 2012

A high-profile organ trafficking case to be heard in Beijing, which involved 51 victims and over 10 million yuan ($1.59 million), has indicated the severe shortage of organs in China and loopholes in transplant management, analysts said Wednesday.

Before the ring was busted in December 2010, Zheng Wei, the organ broker, had helped over 50 customers procure organs by paying the suppliers, mostly young poor men, 20,000 to 25,000 yuan each.

A total of 16 suspects, including some doctors from State-run hospitals, have been prosecuted by the Beijing Haidian District People's Procuratorate, the Procuratorial Daily reported Wednesday.

The Haidian procuratorate refused to reveal any details regarding the case when contacted by the Global Times Wednesday.

Zheng profited by trying to find patients and organ suppliers in the beginning. To make more profits, he started providing underground organ removal surgeries after contacting medical professionals.

He initially got to know Zhou Peng, a doctor at a hospital in Xiao county, Anhui Province in early 2010, and promised Zhou 25,000 yuan for each deal.

Zhou then helped to rent an operation room from a township hospital in Jiangsu Province and find surgeons and anesthetists, one of whom was a deputy director of a hospital, according to the report.

From March to June 2010, over 20 kidneys were removed from living "sellers" in Huohua township hospital in Jiangsu and sent to Beijing for uremia patients. The kidneys were sold at around 200,000 yuan each.

Zheng decided to establish a kidney removal base in Beijing in 2010 to minimize the transportation risks and ensure the freshest organs.

A four-story villa rented at 7,000 yuan per month in Haidian district was renovated into an organ removal center for Zheng in September that year after purchasing essential medical appliances.

Fan Haiyan, the head nurse of the "hospital," was quoted by the Procuratorial Daily as saying that the place was so messy and poorly equipped that "it was just a place for kidney removal."

Zheng was arrested by Haidian police in a bath center on December 10, 2010 and the gang was raided shortly after.

China has seen a booming trend of underground human organ trading due to scarce supplies, despite health regulators' crackdowns.

The first case regarding organ trafficking in the country went to trial in Haidian district court in April 2010. Criminals involved were sentenced to between four and seven years in prison in addition to being fined.

Three medical personnel from Dezhou People's Hospital in Shandong Province were arrested last September after being found to be part of an organ deal by providing operations. They received 280,000 yuan from the buyer.

The shortage of donated organs is the main reason for the rampancy of the illegal trade, Zhou Zijun, a professor at the School of Public Health of Peking University, told the Global Times Wednesday, adding that it is a common problem most countries are faced with.

"The involvement of medical staff in such illegal acts reflects management loopholes in hospitals. Strengthening professional ethics of doctors is important to wiping out the illegal dealings," he said.

It is estimated that there are around 1.5 million patients needing organ transplants, while only about 10,000 of them have the opportunity to undergo such an operation.

China released its first Regulation on Human Organ Transplants in 2007, which forbids any organization or individual from engaging in human organ dealings in any form, and any activities related to the organ trade.

In Amendment VIII to the Criminal Law passed on February 25, 2011, a new crime targeting the organization of the sale of human organs was added.

"The new law will help to reduce such illegal dealings, but it cannot solve the problem at the root," said Hu Yihua, a lawyer in Beijing, who previously defended a client accused of brokering organ trafficking in 2010.

"The law only targets the brokers, and even if they are eradicated, other illegal acts will arise since the imbalance between demand and supply is still there," Hu told the Global Times.

In August, the Ministry of Health and the Red Cross Society of China jointly launched a pilot human organ donation program in 11 provinces and cities. An official with the ministry revealed that 163 donations had been received as of the end of last year, the Beijing News reported.

Vice health minister Huang Jiefu said on February 16 that the donation program will be expanded to all hospitals with organ transplant qualifications.

Hu noted that hospitals should be very cautious when dealing with such operations by strengthening inspections of fake documents.


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