China to Abolish Jailhouse Organ Harvesting

Posted March 23rd, 2012 at 12:10 pm (UTC-5)
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China says it will abolish its controversial practice of harvesting human organs for transplant from death-row prisoners within 3 to 5 years.

The official Xinhua news agency quotes Health vice-minister Huang Jiefu as saying the decades-old practice is being replaced by a national organ donation system to reduce reliance on the organs of inmates. Huang says the new policy “represents the resolve of the government.”

China has come under foreign criticism in recent years for its organ harvesting practices, including high-profile accusations that domestic and foreign organ donor demands have contributed to the high rate of death penalty verdicts in Chinese courts.

Human rights activists testified in 2006 to a U.S. Congressional subcommittee that China was harvesting organs from executed religious prisoners for sale to wealthy foreign patients. Five years earlier, a Chinese doctor (Wang Guoqi) told U.S. lawmakers he had taken skin for transplant from more than 100 executed prisoners — some of whom were not yet dead.

Beijing has consistently denied such allegations, and accused the doctor who testified in 2001 of lying about his organ harvesting work to gain political asylum.

Chinese officials say about 10,000 human organ transplants are performed annually in the country, but insist that organ harvesting from condemned prisoners is limited to inmates who give prior consent.

Friday's Xinhua report cites official progress in reforming organ harvesting practices. It points to regulations approved last year that spell out punishments for those found involved in criminal activity related to illegal organ transactions.

Under the new rules, those convicted of forced organ removal or coercing organ donations from juveniles could face homicide charges. Those found trafficking in human body parts would face prison terms and fines.