China will no longer transplant organs from executed prisoners except for their immediate relatives, state media reported Tuesday citing the Chinese Medical Association.
International rights groups have long accused China of harvesting organs from executed prisoners for transplant without either their or their family's consent.
Hospitals have also been regularly accused of secretly taking organs from road accident victims and other dead patients without telling relatives.
The government has denied such charges, saying most organs are voluntarily donated by ordinary citizens and executed criminals who gave consent before their death.
The Chinese Medical Association, an official body which represents nearly half a million doctors, promised at an international meeting in Europe last week to strengthen management of human organ transplants to ensure standards were implemented, the China Daily reported.
But it was unclear from the report if the association has the power to make sure its requirements for prisoner organ donations would be followed.
If implemented, the rule could effectively signal an end to the transplant of organs from executed prisoners, as it would be rare for a person in severe need of a new organ to be closely related to someone on death row.
The number of transplants from executed prisoners has dropped significantly this year, the China Daily said, citing Chen Zhonghua, the deputy head of the Chinese association's sub-committee on organ transplants.
At the same time, live donations from relatives, as well as donations from other dead citizens, have increased.
This is partly due to stricter regulations on organ transplants that went into force on May 1.
The regulations, issued by the State Council, or China's cabinet, prohibit all organisations and individuals from trading human organs in any form.