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Experts call to improve monitoring of organ trade

By Cao Yin (China Daily)

08:13, August 06, 2012

Experts called on Sunday for authorities to improve hospital supervision to prevent the trade and trafficking of human organs.

Police announced on Saturday that 137 suspects had been caught in the latest crackdown on human organ trafficking.

The investigation was conducted around the end of July by 18 provincial authorities who rescued 127 potential organ suppliers, according to a statement from the Ministry of Public Security.

In April, police in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, uncovered a gang suspected of organizing and trafficking in human organs with other "black agencies" in Beijing, Shandong and Anhui provinces, the statement said.

The gangs coordinated with each other and formed a large network for human organ sales, the ministry said.

The suspects illegally recruited suppliers over the Internet, facilitated the deals and made huge profits from the transactions, which endangered the health of the suppliers and placed a heavy financial burden on the recipients, the ministry added.

The 2011 amendments to China's Criminal Law introduced three clauses related to the illegal organ trade. Convicted offenders face prison terms of more than five years and fines, said Zeng Xinhua, a researcher in criminal law at Beijing Normal University.

Criminals convicted of "forced organ removal, forced organ donation or organ removal from juveniles" could face homicide charges under the law.

"We've always paid great attention to human organ sales, because organizing such a trade has greatly damaged the social order and people's health," said Zhao Qiming, deputy director of the criminal investigation bureau of the ministry.

Some experts said authorities have difficulty solving human organ trading cases.

"Some gangs get organs from people in great need of money and provide the organs to those who urgently want an organ transplant surgery," said Liu Tao, an associate professor specializing in criminal investigation with the Chinese People's Public Security University.

"These hidden trades can be conducted smoothly because both the buyers and sellers are willing to do the deal."

According to the Ministry of Health, about 1.5 million Chinese need organ transplants every year, but only around 10,000 transplants are performed annually due to a lack of donors.

The huge gap has led to a thriving illegal market for human organs, although the government has repeatedly pledged to improve regulations on organ transplants and increase the supply.

China's central government issued its first national level regulations on human organ transplants in 2007, banning organizations and individuals from trading human organs. But there are still some loopholes in the supervision of hospitals.

Liu said hospitals urgently need to establish a nationwide online database to share information on organ receivers and providers.

"In this way, the organ transplant system can be more transparent and the public can better supervise the hospitals' work," he added.

To increase the supply of legally harvested organs, Chinese health authorities are building an official network to facilitate organ donations.

Huang Jiefu, vice-minister of health, said in late March that because of a shortage of organ donations from the public, the majority of organs came from prisoners - with their consent - who had been executed.

Huang promised to change the situation in three to five years by promoting a reliable donor system and encouraging donations from the public.

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