Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

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Sunday, October 7, 2007

China agrees not to take prisoners' organs

Here's an interesting and welcome report, if it's accurate. Here's the first part of the story:

Chinese medical officials agreed Friday not to transplant organs from prisoners or others in custody, except into members of their immediate families.

The agreement was reached at a meeting of the World Medical Association in Copenhagen.

China has previously acknowledged that kidneys, livers, corneas and other organs are routinely removed from prisoners sentenced to death row. But officials insist that this only happens when consent is provided.

Critics argue that death-row prisoners are not truly free to consent and may feel compelled to become donors, violating personal, religious or cultural beliefs.

There has been a great deal of controversy over the taking of organs from condemned prisoners in China; just try this Google search. Here is a very good 1994 report on the subject from Human Rights Watch.

Will this agreement be honored? The single exception it provides is reasonable, but given market pressures and the powerlessness of death-row prisoners, it's hard not to be pessimistic about the exception turning into the rule. We are probably going to find that death-row prisoners have an astonishing number of close relatives needing transplants.

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