Organ donation is purely voluntary, a Chinese government official has asserted, seeking to repudiate reports that organs are forced out of executed prisoners.
In fact only last month Huang Jiefu, vice minister of Health, had admitted that executed prisoners accounted for 65 per cent of organ donors and promised to put to an end to the awful practice.
Prisoners sentenced to death undergo extensive blood tests for matching with potential organ recipients and are given injections to inhibit blood clotting and other treatments to improve the chances of successful transplants. After execution, the bodies are usually stripped of corneas, livers, kidneys and other organs, it has been reported.
But now Mao Qun'an, a Health ministry spokesman, is saying, "A Chinese citizen enjoys the choice of whether or not to donate his or her organs to hospitals."
China imposed strict regulations on organ donations, including donations from criminals, and had tightened supervision of medical institutions licensed to conduct organ transplants, Mao said.
He declared no organization or individual was allowed to "force, cheat or tempt" other people to donate their organs.
"In addition, donors must be fully capable of exercising their rights and express their will to donate in a written form," he said.
He, however, conceded, donations were not meeting with the demand for organ transplants.
Late last month, the Red Cross Society of China and the Health Ministry announced the launch of an organ donation system in 10 provinces and cities in a pilot program to speed up transplant procedures.
Under the pilot plan, they will set up a registry system for donors and a distribution system for recipients.
By 2008, 86,800 kidney transplants, 14,643 liver transplants, 882 heart and lung transplants and more than 220 transplants of other organs had been carried out in China.
Official estimates indicate 1.5 million Chinese need organ transplants every year, but only 10,000 operations are performed because of a severe shortage of donors, Xinhua reported.