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Prisoner donates kidney to his brother
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Ma Qichang will be saved after one year's desperate wait.

His elder brother, Ma Qizheng, has been paroled from prison and can now donate a kidney to the younger man, who has been suffering from uremia for two years.

The brothers, now in the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University, Henan Province, are receiving medical checkups. If all goes well, the kidney transplant operation will be conducted in a week.

"I am a bachelor and have nothing to worry about," said the elder Ma. "I just want to save my brother's life, as he has two children who need their father."

Ma Qizheng, 36, a native of Dengzhou City, Henan, was jailed for theft for six years in 2006 in Shayang County, Hubei Province. His 32-year-old brother was diagnosed with uremia in July 2007.

As doctors said the parents' kidneys were not suitable for transplant, the only hope was the elder brother. Ma said he offered to donate a kidney to his younger brother, when his father visited him in early 2008.

With the support of prison staff, doctors conducted an organ matching test in May 2008 and confirmed the elder brother was a suitable donor.

But the prison refused to release Ma, citing a 2006 Ministry of Justice document that said: "Until a regulation regarding the voluntary donation of organs from criminals is formulated," such donations should be banned.

The family had to wait until the story was widely reported in early June.

On June 7, Ma's father filled in an application for release on parole for the elder brother.

On June 11, the Shayang County People's Court announced the decision to release Ma on parole, after getting approval from the Ministry of Justice. The decision said Ma had followed prison regulations and actively participated in study and labor, which won him release.

"I thought we would never see each other again in this life," said the younger Ma. He said he could not even believe it was true when someone from the Xiongwangtai Prison told him to prepare for the return of his elder brother, on the afternoon of June 11.

"I have been looking forward to my brother's early return day and night," he said.

"Now, there are no obstacles except for the operation fee," the elder brother said. The family has raised 30,000 yuan (4,392 U.S. dollars). The usual fee for such operations is 60,000 yuan to 80,000 yuan in China.


Under a regulation that took effect on May 1, 2007, citizens have the right to donate organs of their free will.

"Prisoners are a most disadvantaged group in this respect," said Liu Renwen, a law researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"The cautious attitude of the Ministry of Justice is to ensure the human rights of prisoners," said Liu. "The voluntary donation of organs by prisoners can be allowed, but this must be guaranteed by strict regulations and procedures."

There are 1 million kidney patients undergoing dialysis and 300,000 die of liver failure in China every year. About 1.5 million people need organs and tissues every year.

Zhuo Xiaoqin, a chief legal consultant with the Ministry of Health, said Ma's kidney donation did not violate the basic principle of protecting the rights of prisoners.

Ma was deprived of his political rights, but he still had his civil rights such as the donation of organs, Zhuo said.

"A law regarding the donation of organs among prisoners should be drafted as early as possible," said Zhuo.

(Xinhua News Agency June 20, 2009)

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