Saturday, April 07, 2007

China limits the retail organ trade

I'm surprised the government is taking action; I'd not thought they were really feeling pressured.
China issues human organ transplant rules in attempt to clean up industry - International Herald Tribune

China has published rules governing human organ transplants ...

... The new regulations issued Friday by China's State Council, or Cabinet, include a ban on the sale of human organs for profit and on donations by people under 18, according to the text of the regulations published by the Communist Party newspaper People's Daily.

The rules, which take effect May 1, also make it illegal to harvest human organs without permission, and standardize transplant procedures at the limited number of hospitals licensed to perform such operations.

Little information about China's lucrative transplant business is publicly available. Human rights groups have said many organs — including those transplanted into wealthy foreigners — come from executed prisoners who may not have given their permission.

"The regulations show that China is responding to great international concern over organ trade in the country," said Nicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Human Rights Watch, in a telephone interview...

China's state-run Xinhua News Agency said most organs used in transplants come from deceased Chinese citizens who had voluntarily donated. But according to Bequelin, more than 90 percent of organs used in transplants were obtained from judicial executions.

A senior Chinese health official acknowledged last year that a majority of organs were harvested from executed prisoners, but only with their prior consent, according to the state-run China Daily newspaper...

... Health officials say China faces a severe shortage of human organs, estimating that out of 1.5 million people who need transplants in China each year, only about 10,000 operations are carried out.

Voluntary donations remain far below demand in China, partly due to cultural biases against organ removal before burial
I wonder how bad things were getting. As predicted by Niven about 40 years ago, the combination of a low threshold for the death penalty and organ harvesting prior to execution (in China I believe the practice is to harvest first, then "execute") leads to a very steep downhill slope. Even with that combination, however, China is meeting about 0.5% of the organ demand.

One driver for this legislation may be the legitimate concern that rich foreigners will buy up what organs are available, further limiting availability in China.

No comments: