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Implementation of China's new policies on organ procurement: An important but challenging step forward

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journal contribution
posted on 2015-01-01, 00:00 authored by Dominique MartinDominique Martin, A Tibell
In the last decade, health authorities in China have made a series of policy announcements concerning organ procurement programs and changes in practice have been intermittently reported (1). The international community of transplant professionals has followed these reports closely, preoccupied with one fundamental issue: the procurement of organs from executed prisoners, a practice that for many years has provided the majority of organs transplanted in China. Sharif et al. describe this practice as “ethically indefensible” (2), an evaluation that reflects the position embraced by the international community for more than two decades (3-5). Sharif et al. express concern that whilst some transplant programs in China have ceased using organs from executed prisoners, others continue to do so, and that all organs procured from the deceased may be allocated through a collective pool as part of the new China Organ Transplant Response System, effectively “laundering” organs obtained from prisoners. They also note that one of the new strategies to encourage deceased donation of organs among the Chinese public has involved financial incentives for donor families, another practice that has been strongly critiqued by the international professional community and global health authorities (6,7). In China and in the United States, proponents of organ procurement from executed prisoners have argued that prisoners should not be denied the option to donate organs after their death if they so choose, as this may provide them or their families solace and an opportunity for moral, spiritual or social redemption (8,9). However, the predominant argument in favour of the practice appears to be essentially pragmatic: prisoners condemned to death represent an additional pool of potential “donors” with organs that will otherwise “go to waste” (10). In contrast, international professional societies and the World Health Organization among others have argued that the practice not only violates the core principles of medical ethics but also thereby undermines efforts to establish a sufficient supply of deceased donor organs. In this commentary, we reaffirm the ethics policy of The Transplantation Society (TTS) concerning organ procurement from executed prisoners (4), and briefly discuss the implications of this policy for international professional engagement with China at this time of significant evolution of Chinese organ procurement programs.

History

Journal

Hepatobiliary surgery and nutrition

Volume

4

Pagination

142-144

Open access

  • Yes

ISSN

2304-3881

eISSN

2304-389X

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2015, AME Publishing Company

Issue

2

Publisher

AME Publishing Company

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