May 28, 2024

China breaks up organ-donor racket

A criminal case which saw four doctors jailed is likely to lead to tighter rules on organ donations.

Four high-ranking doctors have been jailed in China after they were found guilty of illegally harvesting human organs. A court in the eastern city of Bengpu passed a sentence of between 10 and 28 months in jail on the charge of “insulting a body”.

Organ donation is a sensitive topic in China. Five years ago the government officially ended its policy of retrieving organs from executed prisoners and established a voluntary donation system. However, there are constant allegations that prisoners, even political prisoners, are used as sources for organ transplants. Now it appears that a black market in organs has sprung up to meet a shortfall.

This case is likely to lead to tighter rules on organ donations.

It appears that the defendants had failed to obtain legal consent for 11 organ-harvesting procedures between 2017 and 2018 in the county of Huaiyuan in the east province of Anhui. They also forged documents to make the procedures appear to be legal.

The scam worked like this. The former head of intensive care at the county’s People’s Hospital, Yang Suxun, asked families of dying patients, usually victims of car crashes or those suffering from cerebral haemorrhage, if they would like to donate the organs.

If they agreed Dr Yang would ask Huang Xinli, a doctor in Nanjing, if he needed the organs. Then Dr Yang would get family members to sign forged consent forms, without the presence of officials from the Red Cross Society of China as is required by organ transfer rules.

Dr Huang was an organ procurement official and was familiar with organ transplant rules. He forged signatures, altered medical records and manipulated the entry of organ transplants in the national system to “legalise” his acts.

Two other doctors participated. An ambulance driver and a businessman who helped to deliver the organs were also jailed.

The scheme was discovered when a man was promised 200,000 Yuan in “government subsidies” for his mother’s organs. But then he learned that the government did not offer financial incentives.