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November 19, 2006

China admits to harvesting organs from the executed

According to this Los Angeles Times article, following years of denial, China has now finally "acknowledged that most of the human organs used in transplants here are taken from executed prisoners and that many of the recipients are foreigners who pay hefty sums to avoid a long wait."  Wow!  Here's more from the story:

A Chinese transplant doctor, Dr. Zhonghua Chen, said at a conference in Boston in July that Chinese doctors had transplanted 8,102 kidneys, 3,741 livers and 80 hearts in 2005. Some experts estimate that well over 90% of all organs transplanted in China come from executed prisoners, given the limited supply of organs from other sources....

Despite Beijing's record of denying the use of prisoners' organs, some Chinese defend the practice. "It is understandable that China relies on organs of executed prisoners, given that voluntary organ donation is not well established in China," said the doctor at Tongren.  A patient agreed. "There simply aren't enough organs to go around," said a woman in her 50s who declined to be identified. "Saving someone's life using executed prisoner's organs is worth it.  While it would be better not to, that's the reality in China."

Rules adopted in 1984 state that executed prisoners' organs can be used if the prisoner's relatives are unwilling to take the corpse or if the prisoner or his family agrees. But relatively little is known about how such organs are distributed, how organ decisions are made and which patients get preference....

China in recent years has introduced mobile execution vans and lethal injection, supplanting the traditional method of a bullet to the back of the head. Beijing has touted these as more humane; critics say the changes facilitate rapid organ transfers. Analysts said it wasn't exactly clear why China had become more willing to air its dirty laundry, but they noted that the increased openness of Chinese society was making denial of the practice more difficult.

I wonder what Judge Posner and other law and econ types might say about this news.

November 19, 2006 at 12:04 AM | Permalink

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