China Addresses Dependence on Death Row Organ Donors

Chinese authorities have launched a new voluntary system for organ donation in a bid to end the country’s much-criticized dependence on body parts from executed prisoners. Human rights advocates had long called for reform of the previous system, challenging it as ripe for abuses.

Authorities are launching the new public donation system with massive public awareness campaigns in 10 cities and provinces before taking it nationwide. Authorities will reportedly pair up donors with recipients and operate a publicly available waiting list to promote fairness and transparency.

Under the old system, China — which routinely executes more prisoners on a yearly basis than any other country in the world — encouraged those about to be executed to donate organs. The system was intended to make up donor shortages caused by Chinese cultural and religious objections to organ donation.

Prisoners were prepped before execution with blood clot inhibiting drugs and blood screenings to match them with potential recipients. Livers and kidneys were among the organs routinely harvested from the executed. The old system, which provided an estimated 90 percent of available transplant organs in China, failed to meet transplant needs in China, helping to drive corruption and black market organ trades.

Rights advocates argued vociferously against the system on the basis that the process was not transparent and left prisoners little real choice but to agree.

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