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China to Stop Relying on Inmates for Organ Donation: Minister

Update Date: Nov 22, 2012 08:27 AM EST

The Chinese health minister has announced that within the next two years, China will no longer rely on executed prisoners as a source of transplant organs, the state media reported Thursday.

The country, with a population of 1.3 billion, with its high demand for organs and facing a chronic shortage of donations, relied on inmates on death row for organs. Although this has been practiced for years together, sparking heated debates and controversies, the Chinese government has never admitted to the same.

International human rights groups have long accused Chinese authorities of harvesting organs from executed prisoners without their consent or that of their families, Health Day reported.

"Chinese organ transplants will completely end their reliance on donations from executed prisoners within two years," said Huang Jiefu, the vice health minister, according to the state-run China News Service.

Similar pledges have been made by Beijing before, but the time frame of two years mentioned in Huang's comments is the shortest timetable offered so far.  

He said a voluntary donation system is being set up in the country, with 1,000 plus organs already collected by the 38 centres opened two years ago.

In 2007, human organ trading was banned in China; however, the supply could still not suffice for the demand.

Shortage in the organ supply in China also stems from Chinese tradition, where people believe they are reincarnated after death, and hence believe in keeping the body complete, the report said.

Official statistics say that out of the estimated 1.5 million patients who require organ transplant every year, only around 10,000 requirements are fulfilled, which is why the forced donations and illegal sale of organs take place.

In 2009, a spokesman from the health ministry was quoted as saying by state media that the organs are donated by the prisoners with written consent from them.

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