Friday, July 5, 2013

Different views of organ donation in China

When I visited the Ministry of Health in Beijing last Friday, their estimate was that 60% of the organs used for transplant still come from executed prisoners.  They defend this practice (in part by saying that the prisoners consent to this donation), while at the same time indicate that they would like to build a system of voluntary donation to replace it.  Subsequently I had some very interesting conversations about that in Hong Kong, which I'll try to blog about sometime soon.

Two stories from Australia illustrate the debate that is going on in China and around the world regarding how China's organ donation policy should be regarded. No one denies that it still relies heavily on organs from executed prisoners, although not as heavily as in the past.

A focus of this debate, at least in the press, has been Dr.Jeifu Wang, a transplant surgeon who was recently China's deputy minister for health. He was educated in Australia, and has recently become a subject of controversy after the University of Sydney offered him an honorary degree.  The first article takes issue with that, and the second details his position.

Honorary Professor Was an Organ Harvester, Say Critics

"A prestigious Australian university has come under scrutiny recently for giving an honorary professorship to a former top Chinese health official who has been involved in unethical organ harvesting. 
Researchers of organ harvesting in China spoke to the influential Australian news program the “7:30 Report” with information about Huang Jiefu’s involvement in organ harvesting in China; they called on the University of Sydney to rescind the honorary professorship they gave to Huang in 2008 and renewed in October 2011.  "


"Last year there were 5,846 kidney transplants in China and more than half of the organs came from prisoners. Of all liver transplants, 80 per cent came from executed prisoners.
"We call it human value," Dr Huang said. "Everybody has a weak point and a strong point. So in the human values you can say 'he's a bad man, he's not on the good side'.
"So then before he died he found his conscience and found he needed to do something to repay society. So why do you object?"
"While Dr Huang, a transplant doctor who studied at the University of Sydney, says his own practice has not taken any organs from the prisons for two years, he continues to defend the policy.
"I feel that at first I respect the donor. I think that probably he committed some very severe crime," he said.
"It's not my part, it's the judicial part to deserve the death penalty. However I respect his last will. I respect the life he donated for another three people."

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