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Illegal transplant of organs targeted
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The top health authority is launching an overhaul of illegal organ transplants at mainland hospitals, after reports surfaced that some hospitals are illegally doing organ surgeries for foreigners.

The Ministry of Health said that any of the 164 medical institutions qualified to carry out organ transplants nationwide will have their licenses revoked if they cannot pass the ongoing qualification re-examination.

The ministry has named 16 hospitals that it said failed to comply with regulations on organ transplants.

Under the leadership of the National Organ Transplantation Committee and the ministry, an expert team has begun final evaluation of the remaining organ transplant practitioners.

"We'll let the people know and decide which hospital to go to for quality and ethical transplants," a ministry official told China Daily.

Organ transplants in China are covered by regulations passed in 2007 that established national oversight and credentials for Chinese transplant officials.

The regulations also banned organ trade, prevented organ trafficking and "transplant tourism" for foreigners and established a national organ donation system that includes deceased and living donors.

Official estimates indicate that 2 million Chinese need organ transplants each year, but only 20,000 operations are performed because of a severe shortage of donors.

Some hospitals have ignored the statutes and sold organs to foreigners in order to increase profits. Three hospitals were penalized for illegally selling human organs to foreigners in 2008.

In February, the ministry launched an investigation into a report by Japan's Kyoto News that said 17 Japanese tourists each spent about 595,000 yuan ($87,000) for liver or kidney transplant operations at an unidentified hospital in Guangzhou.

Such an operation usually costs 100,000 yuan at qualified Chinese hospitals.

A surgeon who didn't want to be named told China Daily that the hospital where he worked was still performing organ transplants on foreigners who were willing to pay.

"The hospital can fake their identities to fool the authorities," he said.

The Red Cross Society of China, in collaboration with the ministry, plans to establish an independent organ donation system, which would include a waiting list of patients and stipulations on the sources of donations, according to its executive vice-president, Jiang Yiman.

Organs from prisoners who were executed - with written consent either from themselves or family members - provide one source of donations.

"A waiting list will be made public to secure transparent and fair practice in terms of organ donation allocation and procurement," said Vice-Minister of Health Huang Jiefu.

(China Daily August 13, 2009)

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