China will formally ban the trade in human organs from May 1, state media reported, amid ongoing allegations that the nation’s military is involved in harvesting organs from executed prisoners.
The regulation, issued by the State Council, or China’s cabinet, does not apply to transplants of human tissue such as cells, corneas or bone marrow, the Xinhua news agency reported on Friday. This is the first regulation of its kind introduced by the central government, and it is a milestone in the country’s organ transplant history.
The regulation comprises 32 articles in five chapters, including human organ donations, human organ transplants, legal responsibilities and supplementary points. It covers transplant quality and aims to safeguard citizen’s lawful rights.
The regulation stipulates that human organ transplants should respect the principle of voluntary and free donation and make it a crime to harvest organs without the owner’s permission or against his will.
People taking organs from anyone under the age of 18 will also face prosecution and can be convicted of murder or intentional assault. The regulation sets out strict guidelines for hospitals that are allowed to perform organ transplants.
Any doctor found to be involved in the organ trade will have their practitioner license revoked, face fine and his/her clinic will be forbidden from performing transplant surgery for at least three years.
Officials convicted of trading in human organs will be sacked and kicked out of government. International human rights groups have long accused China of harvesting organs from executed prisoners for transplant without the consent of the prisoner or his or her family.
Hospitals have also been regularly accused of secretly taking organs from road accident victims and other dead patients without informing family members.
But the health ministry has denied those charges, saying most organs are voluntarily donated by ordinary citizens and executed criminals who consented to donations before their deaths. The country faces a huge gap between the demand for functional organs and supply with donations very limited. About 1.5 million patients need organ transplants each year, but only 10,000 can find organs, according to statistics from the Health Ministry.