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Shanghai Looks to Block Black Organ Market

Two representatives of the Shanghai People's Congress are pushing for legislation to prevent people from selling their kidneys and other organs for transplants, but some medical experts say the proposal is meaningless.

Doctors said no hospital would consider performing a transplant operation if it knew the donor was selling the organ.

Others in the medical community, however, consider the issue urgent, suggesting a large black market for organs could develop across China if legislation isn't passed. Doctors worry that people would not have equal access to medical treatment and that only the affluent would benefit.

Dr Li Dingguo, director of the digestive department of Xinhua Hospital, said medical facilities regularly receive letters and telephone calls from people willing to sell organs. The washrooms and corridors of some hospitals carry adverts from would-be donors - complete with the seller's blood type, age, physical condition and contact details.

"It will really hamper the medical service, if this practice becomes widespread," Li said.

At present, most transplant operations occur when the deceased's relatives donate an organ. A live donor transplant is restricted to family members, who are required to notarize the kinship, doctors said.

But donors could use fake ID cards or bribe officials to get a fake certificate. Such deception could prove profitable as those willing to sell a kidney charge 100,000 to 200,000 yuan (US$24,100), while the price for an organ from the deceased is no more than 10,000 yuan - paid to the relatives as redress, according to Dr Ding Qiang, vice director of Fudan University's Organ Transplant Institute.

People with large debts or those just simply wanting to improve their life are attracted by the chance to earn fast money, doctors say.

"Using a kidney from a living person has the same success rate as using one from the deceased," Ding said. "But the risk of the surgery is much higher, as doctors should take care of both recipient and donor. The donor may develop complications."

He would like to see legislators pass a law allowing people who have been pronounced brain dead to be organ donors.

Local resident Qiu Fusheng said he suffered financial loss several years ago and after seeing ads in a hospital, posted his own.

"My body is my only resource," Qiu said. "The money can release me from this crisis." Despite his attempts to sell an organ, he was unable to find any buyers.

(eastday.com January 15, 2004)

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