China Hastens End to Post-Execution Organ Harvesting

The practice of harvesting transplant organs from executed prisoners is one of China’s most infamous human rights violations. In March, vice health minister Huang Jiefu announced that it would soon be phased out in favour of a voluntary donor system. Now, reports Laurie Burkitt at China Real Time Report, Huang has announced that the new system will launch as early as next year:

The country’s Ministry of Health has commissioned the Red Cross Society of China to run the nation’s organ donation system and will work with the organization to ensure that all organ procurement and transplantation is done legally, said Wang Haibo, director of the China Organ Transplant Response System Research Center of the Ministry of Health, in an interview featured in the November edition of a World Health Organization journal called the Bulletin (pdf).

[…] Officials in the world’s most populous country have before conceded that China has depended for many years on executed prisoners as its main source of organ supply for ailing citizens. Human-rights groups have criticized the practice, saying that organ harvesting is often forced and influences the speed and number of China’s executions.

[…] The demand for transplants in China is growing, said Mr. Wang in the report. An estimated 1.5 million people in China are in need of organ transplants annually, while only 10,000 receive them, according to government statistics.

In an encouraging sign for the success of the new scheme, a study published in January found that almost three-quarters of Chinese would be willing to donate their own organs after death.

Prisoners aside, China hosts a thriving illegal market. 137 people were arrested in August on suspicion of black market organ trafficking.