China has promised to stop harvesting organs from executed prisoners by the beginning of next year, state media reported.
Dr. Huang Jiefu, who heads the country’s organ donation committee, told a seminar Thursday that by Jan. 1, only organs donated voluntarily by civilians will be used in transplants.
He said that every year about 300,000 people in China need transplanted organs, but only 10,000 operations are carried out.
With a donation rate of only 0.6 per million people, China has one of the world’s lowest levels of organ donations. Huang said Spain, by contrast, has a rate of 37 per million.
“Besides traditional beliefs, one of the major roadblocks to the development of our organ donation industry is that people are concerned that organ donation will be fair, just and transparent,” he was quoted as saying.
Huang, who used to be the vice-minister for health, pledged last year to phase out prisoner organ transplants by the end of 2013, BBC News reported.
Prisoners used to account for two-thirds of transplant organs, based on previous estimates from state media, it said.
China has been criticised for taking their organs without consent, but cultural concerns have stymied attempts to encourage voluntary donations.
So far, 38 organ transplant centers around the country, including those in Beijing, Guangdong and Zhejiang, have reportedly stopped using prisoners’ organs.
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