Can China crack down on organ trading?

Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on August 20, 2007

Critics of the anything-goes world of Chinese capitalism often point to the country’s organ trade as an especially grisly example of what’s wrong with the way the rest of the world deals with China. For years, desperately ill people from the U.S., Japan and other wealthy countries have been traveling to China to receive transplanted livers or kidneys or other organs that they can’t get at home. Some (or most, depending on whom you believe) of these Chinese organs came from executed prisoners. And China executes more prisoners than any other country, so there’s no shortage of potential donors.

For years the government allowed this to happen, but more recently has been cracking down. The reason probably has less to do with a sudden case of conscience and instead with an equally powerful emotion: embarrassment. Beijing’s leaders are eager for China to become a science and technology power, and this organ trade was a blot on the country’s image.

So starting last year, the government finally started to take action by first admitting that there was a problem and then taking steps to crack down. In the latest move, as reported by Xinhua the government has given 164 Chinese hospitals the OK to perform organ transplants. That may sound like a lot, but Xinhua points out that previously there were over 600 Chinese hospitals that performed such operations. In classic Xinhua understatement, the news agency reports a Ministry of Health official saying “many of them lacked in effective management, which led to various problems.” In other words, the government didn’t actually regulate the hospitals. And since many of the hospitals were short on cash and eager to find ways to make money, they tapped into the lucrative business of selling organ transplants to foreigners. With China under attack worldwide for its lax regulation of safety standards, the government probably wants to find ways it can improve its image by showing the world that it can indeed tackle its out-of-control entrepreneurs. Cracking down on the organ trade is one high-profile way to do that.

Reader Comments

nanheyangrouchuan

August 20, 2007 12:05 PM

The sale of harvested organs for transplant to wealthy foreigners has become a major cash cow for local authorities, local hospitals as well as the provincial and national level Public Security Bureau. Too many people are making too much money to put a stop to this practice.

Kinda like tax reform in the US...

Joe Knoll

August 20, 2007 1:09 PM

I am not sure US is that far behind China
in this respect. The incarceration rate in US
is the highest in the world which is roughly
1%. Roughly 5% of the population is either
in prison or on probation or on parole, which is
roughly 7 million. The incarceration rate among its minorities is 10%. More of its minorities
are in prison than in colleges.

joe joe

August 22, 2007 2:50 AM

If I needed a new liver and can get one from a dead prisoner, you bet I am going to China to get one so I can drink more beer. Why not?

Raju

August 22, 2007 5:57 AM

In Nepal, poor people are cheated every day for their kidneys. Organ merchants from India cross border every day and bring the Nepalis to India. They tell the Nepalis that they can get jobs in India only to lose their kidneys and God knows what else in India.

prabhat

October 25, 2007 3:20 AM

In india, its sure this is happenin all over the world mostly in under developing countries like India.... n many others, and it is far more difficult to crack down the ongoing rampage occuring with innocent human being who doesnt even know tht are going to loose their organ for a small price, and then number of such incidents are increasing day to day, as foreigners are attracted from all over the world beacause of the cheap price & services. I think gorvenment is unable to take action regarding the incidents, the victims voice are crushed before they can reach somewhere to justice, most of them are below poverty line. If this keeps going like it is in India than it will be standing next to China.

MarketEconomy

October 25, 2007 2:24 PM

Like market economy, why organ trading should be different? In this case, demand is far exceeding the supply. So, it should strictly regulated rather than banned. Organs from dead prison is a briliiant idea. What harm does it give if the prison agrees, and the benifit goes to the prison's family?

make money trading

February 24, 2010 1:31 PM

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Bloomberg Businessweek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies.

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