May 24, 2024

Doubts raised about organ transplant reforms in China

Strong criticisms have been levelled at ‘reforms’ to the organ trade currently being carried out by the Chinese government.

Strong criticisms have been levelled supposed ‘reforms’ to the organ trade currently being carried out by the Chinese government. 

According to journalist Yaqui Wang – writing for the Atlantic this week – there were some promising initial reforms but a lack of transparency remains.

Since new regulations were brought in 2010, the proportion of organ donations from executed prisoners has dropped to 51%, and the number of cadaver organ donations from the general population has risen to 23%. The government has also started a new database – the China Organ Transplant Response System, or COTRS – to ensure that organs are allocated “equitably and transparently”.

There are, however, a number of concerns about the new database. Unlike the equivalent system in the US, information about donors and recipients listed are unknown to the public. And, as the director of the Organ Donation Centre at the Wuhan branch of the Red Cross Luo Gangqiang pointed out, there is no supervision by a third party to ensure data is entered correctly initially.

There are also grave concerns that the Chinese Red Cross has been coercing donations and buying organs from individuals in desperate need of money. According to a report published in The People’s Daily last month, an organ donation coordinator for the Shannxi branch of the Red Cross threatened to take away a critically injured patient’s breathing machine if the family continued to refuse to donate his organs in the event of a cardiac death. 

Xavier Symons
Creative commons
organ donation