Wednesday, 29 March 2006

China restricts organs from executions

China has banned the sale of body parts and introduced standards requiring written permission from organ donors.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that new regulations also introduce improved medical standards for transplants and clinics.

It remains to be seen if the new regulations will be effective at stopping the widespread practice of removing organs from executed prisoners without their consent.

Some researchers have suggested as high as 90% of all organs transplanted in China come from the bodies of executed prisoners. There is an extremely low rate of organ donation in China, a result of traditional beliefs that the body should be kept intact after death.

There is also a flourishing market in "medical tourism", where people travel to China and pay to receive transplant organs.

Since 1993, human rights organisations have criticised the practice of harvesting organs from executed prisoners.

In 2004, Amnesty International said China's practices harvesting and marketing human organs from executed prisoners were a breach of guidelines and ethical standards of the World Health Organization, the international Transplantation Society and the World Medical Association.

The organisation cited reports that methods of execution in China varied according to which organs were to be harvested from a prisoner. "For example, if a prisoner's corneas are to be taken, a bullet is fired into the prisoner's neck or heart to avoid causing damage to the eyes," it said.

Human Rights Watch reported in 1994 that organs were often taken without having obtained the prisoner's prior consent.

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