China's new rules on donors12th June 2007
The Chinese government has announced a set of new regulations aimed at curbing the illegal trade in human organs.
New penalties have been introduced for doctors and hopitals who try to make money from transplants, trading in livers, kidneys, hearts and corneas.
Existing regulations banning organ sales already exist, but the new measures are an attempt by China's cabinet, the State Council, to underline its opposition to the practice, which has been reported in Western media.
Doctors can be struck off, hospitals suspended from carrying out transplant operations for three years, and officials dismissed for trading in human organs, the regulations state.
Maximum fines have been increased to ten times the potential profit from the business.
China caters to a growing number of 'transplant tourists', who come to a country where hundreds of millions still live in poverty. An estimated 10,000 transplants are performed annually, making China second only to the United States in this regard.
Chinese hospitals are under pressure to generate income, which means that ethical considerations are often sidelined in the rush to attract lucrative transplant operations.
Money can buy rich foreigners a place at the head of the queue, while around 1.5 million Chinese are still waiting for much-needed organs.
Meanwhile, rights groups estimate that 99% of transplant organs come from executed prisoners. China executes more people annually than the rest of the world put together, with 1,770 people put to death in 2005, according to Amnesty Internationl.
Some critics of the government have suggested that the two figures are causally linked.
But Beijing denies Western media reports that organs are harvested from executed prisoners without consent, saying that organs are taken lawfully from executed convicts with their consent. However, human rights abuses are common in China's judicial system, and coercion is a strong possibility.
Last year, the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement claimed its members were being arrested and kept in concentration camps until orders came in for their organs, at which point those with a matching blood type were executed.
Canada's former Secretary of State for the Asia Pacific region David Kilgour and human rights lawyer David Matas have released two reports in the past year accusing China of human rights violations and detailing the involvement of People's Liberation Army hospitals in the transplant business.
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Title: China's new rules on donors
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 3120
Date Added: 12th Jun 2007