Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Organ "Donations" from Chinese Prisoners

The darker side of bioethics. This video is heart-retching and could not argue louder for a Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. Watch it and weep.


From the BBC:
Organ sales 'thriving' in China

Chinese officials say the prisoners volunteer to donate their organs. The sale of organs taken from executed prisoners appears to be thriving in China, an undercover investigation by the BBC has found. Organs from death row inmates are sold to foreigners who need transplants. One hospital said it could provide a liver at a cost of £50,000 ($94,400), with the chief surgeon confirming an executed prisoner could be the donor. China's health ministry did not deny the practice, but said it was reviewing the system and regulations.

'Present to society'

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes visited No 1 Central Hospital in Tianjin, ostensibly seeking a liver for his sick father. Officials there told him that a matching liver could be available in three weeks.

Thanks to bioethics.net for bringing this to our attention.

1 comment:

bobby fletcher said...

I would like to point out the fact “ability to pay” is a compelling factor in our own organ transplant industry, no less so than China. In US the uninsured are left out of the organ wait list, while the rich go on wait list and receive organs in days or weeks, too.

It is refered to as “wallet biopsy”. 2004 clinical data from ustransplant.org shows thousands of patients in US (top 10% of wait list) averaged a 10 day wait period for liver transplant.

Does that mean we too are selling organs?

As to the BBC reporter’s cliam it’s not possible for the condemned in China to consent to donation, I would like to point out that China is not the only country that allows the death row inmate to donate organ. In US it is allowed on a case-by-case basis.

For reference, here’s a report I found in the Chinese media, about a guy who turned himself in for killing his wife’s lover. Before he was to pay with his life, he decided to donate his organ as last act of redemption, and willed the organ donation compensation fund paid by the state to the victim’s family. In his interview he indicated the reason he called for press is to help bring awareness to organ donation in China:


Many such cases exists in China:


Some people would simply disregard Chinese media’s reporting about themselves, insisting on what they know about China, like Buddhist culture and people’s desire to die “whole” (probably learned from the movie “The Last Emperor”.)

It probably is still true to some degree, but folks forget most Chinese are not criminals. Does one really believe “wholeness” applies to criminals in Buddhism? Above article demonstrates a common rationale for the condemned to consent to organ donation - the Buddhist desire for redemption.

Chinese culture and Buddhist religious foundation makes organ donation difficult to promote. However the condemned often seek redemption and last act of contribution to family and society, under the same cultural and religious foundation.

Yes, the Chinese government’s organ donation compensation fund seems to be direct at this population, but its aim is to promote organ donation by the population at large.

You may find faults in it, as there do exist isolated cases of abuse contrary to the law stated. But who are we to deny their reality, and self-righteously accuse them with our western sensitivity?

I believe it is fair to say this issue is not only debatable, the Chinese are debating it - as the above search engine results show a range of opinions.

To me this really demonstrates that China’s problems isn’t all that black and white. China too have their dilemmas and choices, and their own history to evaluate (and overcome).

In contrast, to condemn China with emotionally satisfying conclusion only serves ones ego, I submit.