VIII-8 Question: Recent foreign reports have slammed China's purported organ trade, saying that organs transplanted from executed criminals are being trafficked in. How true is this, and what is China's stand on it?
A: China has a set of strict rules and regulations, in addition to efficient supervision and monitoring system, of human organ donation and transplantation. Contrary to these irresponsible and illusive reports, China always takes a cautious and responsible approach toward human organ transplantation. Starting in the 1960s organ transplants were first seen in China; by the 1990s transplants of the heart, liver, lung, kidney, pancreas-kidney, liver-kidney and heart-lung were made possible. More than 12,000 organ transplant surgeries were made in 2005 alone. By June 2006, more than 85,000 transplants were made, making China the second largest in the world just after the United States. Chinese doctors are manifestly capable of handling various surgeries that require world-class techniques.
Kidney transplantation comprises the majority of the cases - 74,000 cases - and the longest survival period of a transplanted kidney was 28 years. Liver transplants have surpassed 10,000 in number, and the most successful one survived for more than 12 years. More than 400 heart transplants have been carried out; the longest lasted 14 years.
Given scarce organ resources in the world, donated organs first meet domestic demands, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Suffering from a yawning shortage of organ resources, only 10,000 Chinese people can receive new organs for treatment each year, compared with 1.5 million who are in need of them. Under the influence of tradition, people are unwilling to donate their organs, and a major source of organs comes from voluntary pre-determined donations by citizens who have died of natural causes. As far as criminals on death row are concerned, if they are willing to donate posthumously and their families agree, it will be permitted, in addition to strict assessment from relevant departments.
China sticks to the principles of human organ transplant, rectified in 1991 by the WHO. On July 1, 2006, Interim Provisions on Clinical Application and Management of Human Organ Transplantation took effect, and in March 2007, the State Council, China's cabinet, issued the Human Organ Transplant Ordinance (Draft), which spelt out that human organ trade in any form is prohibited. For voluntary donations to be made, the donors must sign prescribed forms. Moreover, they are entitled to refuse donations for personal reasons. Only qualified hospitals are allowed to do transplants to guarantee quality and safety of the surgeries. Finally, a database on collective information of donor registration will be established to share information, streamline the donating procedure, encourage more donations, and increase organ sources for more objectives, fair and just organ use.