Organ donations in China: a more than dubious practice

Publié le : 28 June 2013

 Every year in China, according to the official press, "300,000 new patients are added to the lists of those awaiting transplants […], but only 10,000 are carried out" and in 2009 "65% of these organs came from prisoners under sentence of death." But the head of department of a major hospital in Shanghai anonymously denounced the fact that "for the 200 or so transplants carried out in 2011, 80% of the organs used came as a result of executions."

Numerous doubts remain about the way the donations are practised. According to Huang Jiefu, the former Vice Health Minister who reformed the practice of organ donations in China, "the written consent of the prisoner as well as the family members is required." But the journalist explains that the practice is different: "it is proven that the families are rarely asked" for their consent and "nothing is done to ensure that they and their lawyers can obtain this agreement form." Doctors also remain uncertain about the existence or not of the consent of the prisoner when they come to harvest the organs. 
When asked if he could obtain the form testifying to the consent of the prisoners under sentence of death, the head of department of the hospital in Shanghai, still speaking under cover of anonymity, replied: "we do not ask and we do not know. The Court represents the law, and we have no other choice than to trust it." Liu Changqiu, a researcher at the Academy of Social Sciences of Shanghai who dared to work on this subject, explains that "it happens that there is no paper or that the paper is a forgery." He offers the following hypothesis: "Perhaps the prisoners under sentence of death say yes at the last minute, and perhaps they are promised that money will be given to their family.
Similarly, the procedure for obtaining an organ transplant does not take ethical principles into account: "access to organs largely depends on the doctor’s network of contacts and, in the absence of transparency, leaves the way open for financial transactions," although such practices have been made illegal since 2007.

China is trying to free itself from the paradox that consists of "using the death penalty to save lives." The official newspaper China Daily announced in late June that an electronic register of voluntary donors would be set up. But surgeons are dubious about the implementation of this new system because a trial list of donors has been in place for the past three years, but has not met with much success.

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