Chinese doctors jailed for illegal organ harvesting

Scalpel and kidney dish (generic posed image)
There is a thriving black market for organ donations in China

Six people including several doctors have been jailed in China for illegally harvesting organs from accident victims, report local media, the group had tricked the families of the deceased into thinking they were making official organ donations.

Between 2017 and 2018 they removed the livers and kidneys from 11 people at a hospital in Anhui province. China is grappling with a huge shortage of organs and has struggled to meet demand through public donations, according to local reports, the trafficking ring included four high-ranking doctors who worked in organ procurement in hospitals. Local media said they would target car crash victims or patients who suffered from cerebral haemorrhage at the Huaiyuan County People’s Hospital in Anhui. The hospital’s head of the intensive care unit, Yang Suxun, would approach a patient’s family members and ask if they would consent to donating their loved one’s organs, the family members would sign what would later turn out to be fake consent forms.

The person would then be wheeled out of the hospital in the middle of the night, and put into a van made to look like an ambulance where doctors would remove the organs, the organs would then be sold to individuals or other hospitals which members of the trafficking ring contacted secretly, according to reports. They were eventually found out when the son of one of the victims grew suspicious. Several months after his mother’s death in 2018, Shi Xianglin rechecked the documents his family received when they agreed to her organ donation, and found several discrepancies – including blank sections in the forms, he then discovered there were no records of his mother’s donation held either with provincial authorities or the China Organ Donation Administrative Centre in Beijing. He told local news outlet Dazhongwang that when he asked Yang about this, he was immediately offered a large sum of money to “keep mum”. “That’s when I was sure that something very strange was going on,” Mr Shi said, he promptly alerted the authorities.

The six men in the organ trafficking ring were sentenced in July for the crime of “deliberately destroying corpses”. The case only appears to have come to light now after Mr Shi spoke to local media, for years China harvested the organs of executed prisoners to help meet demand, a practice that came under widespread global criticism. It was officially stopped in 2015 but authorities at the time said it would be tough to ensure compliance. The country now relies on public donations to its national organ bank. Donor rates in China have increased in recent years but are still much lower than in other parts of the world – 4.4 donations per million people, compared with 49 per million in Spain.

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