Shocking reports of organs from executed prisoners being sold to foreigners for human transplantation purposes in China has raised much controversy and confusion. Chinese health officials, who have been passive about the issue for a long time, have admitted about the widespread prevalence of such an inhuman act.
Despite reports of poor survival rates of grafts transplanted from total strangers (were paid for their donation) and transmission of HIV, such instances of commercialisation of human organs continue to expose the deficits in the legal, social and ethical perspective with respect to human transplantation.
The health officials in response to the above situation have expressed the need for enforcement of strict laws and regulations to effectively deal with the worldwide shortage of human organs. In addition, it has also been proposed to amend the existing legislation before it can be approved by the State Council. A currently existing legislation that states that such organ retrieval can only take place after written consent has been obtained from family members to do so or in case of an unclaimed body is the only rope of hope left for such victims.
In spite of religious beliefs that require the availability of the whole human body for afterlife ceremonies, organ trade from executed prisoners has been a flourishing business in China. Furthermore, the financial benefit from the transplantation surgery is another added reason for flourishment of the transplant industry in China. Infact, it stands second only to US in terms of the number of liver, heart and kidney transplants conducted.
The change in the practise of execution since the late 1990's, which involved administration of lethal injection to the prisoners to ensure usability of the organs, is believed to have revolutionised the set-up. Previously, prisoners were executed with the help of a bullet directed to either the head or heart.
It has been projected that nearly all organs taken from cadavers were taken from executed prisoners, raising reactions from human rights organisations worldwide. There have also been numerous instances where the transplant team members have visited execution grounds to procure organs for transplantation.
Alarming figures approximating to nearly 3,400 executions are hoped to happen in China. This is much greater than the number in other parts of the world combined.