China vows to end transplants from executed prisoners
Mar 23, 2012, 7:39 GMT
Beijing - China plans to end the use of transplant organs from executed prisoners within five years, state media on Friday quoted a senior health official as saying.
'The pledge to abolish organ donations from condemned prisoners represents the resolve of the government,' the official Xinhua news agency quoted Vice Minister of Health Huang Jiefu as saying Thursday.
Huang said the government aimed to end the use of executed prisoners' organs in three to five years as it develops a national system for organ donations.
A reported decrease in the number of executions in recent years had 'posed challenges' for China's organ transplants while greater risks of infection from executed prisoners gave Chinese transplant patients a low survival rate, he said.
Organs had only been taken from executed prisoners with prior consent from the prisoners or their relatives, Huang said.
The Health Ministry earlier reported that about 10,000 transplant operations take place annually in China, but an estimated 1.5 million people need transplants.
The dearth of transplant organs has fuelled a black market, prompting the government to ban all trading of human organs in 2007 and revise the criminal law to allow tough punishments for organ traffickers.
In 2009, Huang was quoted as saying that about two-thirds of China's transplanted organs still came from executed prisoners despite government efforts to encourage public donation.
In his earlier remarks, he said some hospitals 'ignore legal procedures' to profit from the organs of executed prisoners, citing the example of organ donors being persuaded to sign documents claiming they were relatives of or 'emotionally connected' to wealthy transplant recipients.
The number of executions is a state secret in China, but Amnesty International estimated that it still executes more people every year than the rest of the world combined.
Lawyer Liu Renwen told a forum on the death penalty in November that China had halved the number of executions to about 4,000 in the four years since the Supreme People's Court began reviews of all death sentences.
Amnesty has expressed concern that the growing use of lethal injection, especially in mobile units, could facilitate the use of executed prisoners' organs in transplant operations.
Continuing secrecy also meant that the government's claims of a drastic reduction in executions could not be confirmed, Amnesty said in a recent report.
Read more about Health