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Wednesday, September 27th 2006

Need A Liver In Beijing

And you don’t even have to use Craiglist to find it.


Boy Organs For Sale! Organs For Sale?”

The BBC documents the sale of the organs of executed prisoners.

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.

One official said that the prisoners volunteered to give their organs as a “present to society”.

He said there was currently an organ surplus because of an increase in executions ahead of the 1 October National Day.

China executes more prisoners than any other country in the world. In 2005, at least 1,770 people were executed, although true figures were believed to be much higher, a report by human rights group Amnesty International said.

In March, China’s foreign ministry admitted that organs from prisoners were used, but said that it was only in “a very few cases”.

Wow. I mean you have to be shocked about this and believe that the prisoners are not donating their organs in many cases and if they are that the sale of them raises serious ethical questions.

China’s death penalty has always raised eyebrows beyond the debate on the death penalty (if that is possible) – you used to hear stories about the families of those executed in China being charged for the bullet. Indeed, researching that old story I stumbled across this. Turns out this selling of organs piece isn’t exactly an expose.

Three years ago, Dr. Thomas Diflo’s moral nightmare walked into his examination room: a patient freshly implanted with a kidney bought from China’s death row, where prisoners are killed—sometimes for minor offenses—and their organs harvested.

Since then, Dr. Diflo, director of the renal transplant program at the New York University Medical Center, has seen half a dozen such people, typically young Chinese American women. The surgeon says his patients weren’t distressed about snatching organs from the condemned, but he was overwhelmed by the implications.

Diflo says he and his colleagues wrestled with the issue in a debate that was “quite lively and revealing, but the bottom line was that we take care of patients who come to us, regardless of their situation—moral, ethical, financial, or social. Although I might find what they had done reprehensible, I was still nonetheless obligated to care for them in the best way that I knew how, and that is what I do.”

[...]

There’s no telling how many kidney buyers returning to the U.S. have gone for follow-up care at a less elite institution or stayed within secretive medical channels recommended by their brokers.

[...]

Selling organs is a felony under a 1984 federal law that was spearheaded by then senator Al Gore, and is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000. Live or executed prisoners in the U.S. are forbidden to donate an organ, even for free, except to family members under special circumstances.

[...]

The trafficking of human organs from Chinese executions to American residents is “something we’ve always known was going on but something we’ve never been able to document,” says an American investigator working for the Laogai Research Foundation, a group founded by renowned human rights crusader Harry Wu and named for the gulags of China.

With all that said, if we had the money and someone I loved wasn’t high enough on the list would I make a trip to China or another developing nation with them? If I thought it was a matter of their life – no doubt, however terribly unethical that sounds.

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