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Foreign Applications for Organ Transplant Restricted
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China's Ministry of Health announced on Tuesday that from now on, Chinese patients would be given priority access to organ transplants over foreigners. This announcement, made on June 26, came as an addition to existing human organ transplant regulation which came into vigor on May 1.

The announcement, issued on the ministry's website on Tuesday, also bans all domestic medical institutions from carrying out organ transplant on foreigners under the name of medical tourists, and further forbids medical staff from circumventing this hindrance by performing the surgery in another country.

Hospitals and medical institutions must report foreign applications to provincial health administrations, which will in turn pass them on to the ministry for approval without which no organ transplant should be performed.

The regulation also spells out that priority in organ transplants must be given to Chinese citizens, including permanent residents from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. However, residents from the last three regions must provide reports in advance before the transplant can be given the go-ahead.

The announcement also issued a blanket ban on all organ transplant advertisements except for those which strictly follow medical advertisement regulation. Anyone flouting these rules will face having their license revoked and further stiff punishment.

The regulation on human organ transplant, which bans organizations and individuals from trading human organs in any form, stipulates that human organ transplants should be based upon the principle of voluntary donation and that any organ harvesting occurring without the owner's permission will be punishable by law.

Out of the 2 million people in China needing transplants each year, only 20,000 or so receive them due to a shortage of hearts, kidneys and other organs. Therefore, some hospitals that are hungry for cash have turned to providing high-paying foreigners with operations.

(China.org.cn by Huang Shan, July 3, 2007)

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