By Angela Sy
According to the Health Ministry, more than 60 percent of kidney and liver transplants in China last year sourced the necessary organs from executed donors. Although the government is keeping mum on the exact number, annual executions have been estimated at 6,000-8,000 people.
There is considerable documentation of China’s history of harvesting organs from convicts. “One prisoner told how he saw numerous prisoners being medically prepared for organ removal. On the night before the execution, the prison staff would take blood samples.” writes Olga Craig for the Sunday Telegraph, way back in March 1998.
Huang Jiefu, former vice health minister, announced Friday plans to launch a nationwide donor network. If successful, China can stop relying on the local Shawshank as the main source of organs. Huang characterises the prisoner harvesting as “profit-driven, unethical and violating human rights.” Huang has rallied for safe organ donations for years, launching the national organ donor programme way back in 2009.
It’s not likely, however, that the Ministry be overrun by civilians eager to sign up as donors. Traditional Chinese beliefs state that a body has to be “intact” when buried. Even if you’re not traditional, one of the requirements of organ donation include family consent. Huang said that in a “Confucian society … hierarchical and family’s concerns usually trump those of the individual.”
The numbers are worrisome: only 10,000 out of 300,000 Chinese who need liver transplants will receive one in 2013.