Reports say a majority of doctors have expressed concerns over the organ transplantation practices in China.
According to a report, over 95 percent of organ donors in China are prisoners.
Globalization of medical and surgical technology has increased the capacity for countries worldwide to perform organ transplantation.
However, geographic variation in the availability of organs for transplantation and a parallel discrepancy in financial resources for healthcare have increasingly led desperate patients to transplant tourism.
The practice of transplant tourism has been condemned by numerous national and international healthcare organizations, who have cited serious concerns about clandestine international brokers, surreptitious payment, coercion of organ donors (and/ or donor families).
Moreover, substandard medical and surgical practices may lead to lower success rates and higher risk for transmission of infectious disease.
The majority of doctors surveyed said that they would provide post-transplantation care for patients who underwent liver transplantation at another domestic center, in a foreign country or in China. However, respondents who suspected unethical procurement practices in China were more reluctant to do so.
They have also raised concerns over the unethical use of organs. International ethical guidelines exist to ensure that the donation of organs is voluntary, both in life and after death.
But not all countries adhere to these ethical guidelines. When traveling from one country to another country for organ transplant surgery, patients risk using an organ obtained in an unsafe or unethical manner.
In 2005, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported the transplantation of 66,000 kidneys, 21,000 livers and 6,000 hearts. Approximately 10 percent of these procedures occurred via transplant tourism.
The leading destination countries for transplant tourism include China, India, the Philippines and Pakistan.
Transplant tourism to China has been isolated as particularly controversial. Organ procurement from executed prisoners in China has been reported by the U.S. Department of State, non-governmental investigative reports and in medical literature.
"Physicians caring for patients in need of organ transplantation must balance the duty to the individual patient vs. the duty to society," said Dr. Scott Biggins of the University of California San Francisco, which conducted a survey on healthcare professionals.
"We aim to raise awareness of the need for adherence to international accepted ethical standards for procurement of organs and regulation of transplant tourism by international regulatory and credentialing bodies," he added.
The report appears in Clinical transplantation.