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China Admits Use of Death-Row Organs 309

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-won't-be-needing-this-anymore dept.
h.ross.perot writes "Like a page from Larry Niven's Known Space series, here is a real report of criminals' organs being harvested for 'profit.' From the article: 'China is trying to move away from the use of executed prisoners as the major source of organs for transplants. According to the China Daily newspaper, executed prisoners currently provide two-thirds of all transplant organs. The government is now launching a voluntary donation scheme, which it hopes will also curb the illegal trafficking in organs. But analysts say cultural bias against removing organs after death will make a voluntary scheme hard to implement.'"
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China Admits Use of Death-Row Organs

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  • A Waste? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Russianspi (1129469) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @02:10AM (#29212775)
    I think that it would be a waste NOT to use these organs. The prisoners will be executed either way, might as well make them contribute some good to society to offset whatever they were sentenced to death for. There is a possible conflict of interest, though, if the judges start getting paid off to sentence people to death...
    • Re:A Waste? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Stormwatch (703920) <<rodrigogirao> <at> <hotmail.com>> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @02:14AM (#29212795) Homepage
      If it's profitable to kill, more will be killed. Simple like that.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Well, if it is profitable to incarcerate, more people will be incarcerated too, right?... welcome to america!

      • If it's profitable to kill, more will be killed. Simple like that.

        Maybe. We don't know what kind of mindset they have over there, towards this sort of thing.

        But if it was US judges, then oh yes, you can count on it.

      • by Yogiz (1123127)

        Got any citations of any case where someone was sentenced to death for the reason that their organs were needed? I have to agree with the grandparent, it is a horrible waste of good organs.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by chrb (1083577)

        Yes, I've read that in China corporations can set up factories in prison camps and the prisoners will be forced to work for free. Apparently, the prison guards of some of these camps actually go and arrest people specifically when a larger workforce is needed. If there's profit in people being arrested and imprisoned, then more people will be arrested and imprisoned.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Sinbios (852437)

          You've read about it? And it happens in China? And nowhere else?

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penal_labour [wikipedia.org]

          The 13th Amendment of the American Constitution seemingly allows penal labour as it states that "neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime." Douglas A. Blackmon of the Wall Street Journal has argued that in the United States in the 19th century, after the abolition of slavery, government officials on behalf of business interests "enacted [laws] specifically to intimidate blacks, [and] tens of thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily arrested". This resulted in "neoslavery...[at] coal mines, lumber camps, brickyards, railroads, quarries and farm plantations" and "beatings and physical torture", as blacks were "hit with outrageous fines, and charged for the costs of their own arrests."[2]

          Though the use of non-punitive prison labour is not generally controversial if the labour in question serves the public good, is done for sound penological reasons, and is not excessive, cruel, unusual, inhumane, degrading, or humiliating, a significant amount of controversy has arisen with regards to the use of prison labour if the prison in question is privatized, a phenomenon present in a few areas of the United States.[6] As of 2000, privatized prisons incarcerate approximately 3.1% of the prison population within the US, or 62,000 inmates, out of a total incarcerated population of 2 million,[6] and of these privatized prisons, the vast majority use prisoners as a labour force for purposes of avoiding costs, or producing salable goods and services, and thus enhancing the profit of the corporation running them.

          I guess China gets all the flak because they must be doing it in an cruel, inhumane, and exploitative manner, since everyone knows they're all dirty subhuman Reds.

      • by Sinbios (852437)

        Except it's not profitable, because there's no profit. It's a donation, they're not making a profit in transferring them to people who need it. This is probably why they put "profit" instead of profit in the summary.

        Or are you suggesting that judges will find perfectly innocent and healthy people guilty of crimes that warranty execution, in order to transfer their organs to people are similarly innocent but are not in top physical condition, in an extremely risky operation with a decent chance of rejection

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think that it would be a waste NOT to use these organs. The prisoners will be executed either way, might as well make them contribute some good to society to offset whatever they were sentenced to death for.

      "Got an influential position? Money? Power? Need a transplant? Just slip us your bloodtype and other necessary data and we'll upgrade a prisoner of your choice to death row inmate."

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I can understand your position from a technical perspective. However, in my opinion, taking organs from people without consent is wicked. Even bodies of executed criminals should be treated with the same respect as any human remains. I feel it is a fundamental human value that applies even to the worst criminals (and remember, in China, an unfortunate political opinion can be sufficient to put you on the death row).

      If you believe that it is right to use organs from anyone deceased (executed or not), without

      • Re:A Waste? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @04:46AM (#29213609)

        Your argue on ethical grounds here, something that I can't really follow. My body is a living shell for my mind. If my mind is gone, dump the carcass if you want, I obviously don't need it anymore. If you find someone who does, more power to you, as long as I don't have to pay to get the waste out of the way, help yourself.

        The problem is more that someone might be interested in my body while I still need it, because he needs it to, and he has the power to evict me. And that's something I would indeed mind. I don't have a spare body lying around.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by couchslug (175151)

        Corpses do nothing but decay. They ARE bio-waste, and in nature are recycled by other organisms. Decay is life recycling the dead. There is no reason to respect a corpse except primitive custom and death denial.

      • In my opinion, taking the organs from a dead body is a minor 'offence' compared to the execution itself. If China accepts that execution is an acceptable punishment, then I don't see why organ confiscation shouldn't be.

        That's of course aside from the problem of incentivising execution, but my favoured solution would be to stop executions rather than stopping organ harvesting.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I can understand your position from a technical perspective. However, in my opinion, taking organs from people without consent is wicked.

        The British Government are considering 'implied consent' with regard to organ donorship - if you die, and you haven't withdrawn consent by some act, they consider you fair game.

    • by mpe (36238)
      I think that it would be a waste NOT to use these organs. The prisoners will be executed either way, might as well make them contribute some good to society to offset whatever they were sentenced to death for.

      Assuming that the execution method does not damage the organs in question.
      • by julesh (229690)

        Assuming that the execution method does not damage the organs in question.

        Of course, this leaves the question of whether the execution method should be selected so as to minimize damage to the organs that are needed, and whether this affects the level of cruelty involved in the punishment. Clearly, it is quite important that cruelty (i.e. pain and/or panic felt by the subject) is minimized, and this could be at odds with selecting an execution method to preserve organs (eg. poison gas is probably completel

    • It needs to be completely voluntary. But, even if it is voluntary, prisoners can be pressured into donating an organ in order to "redeem" themselves.

      Unlike being an organ donor who dies of an accident, capital punishment is inflicting death onto someone.

      If judges have something to gain, one way or another, then perhaps capital punishment should be taken out of their hands, and be put into another group's hands. I don't know how the justice system works in China, so I can't say much.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Opportunist (166417)

        What people, as a group, have no interest in a supply of organs? You, me, anyone could at any time run into a disease that could make it highly desirable to have a matching spare organ.

        I remember a religion there considers the opening of the body a mortal sin, thus devout members of that faith might be immune to the temptation. Though considering China's (official) stance on religion I guess that option is none.

        • I would assume the alternative to capital punishment is a life sentence, and that a judge would have to make a decision as to whether sentence someone to life in prison or to death.

          Do they have juries in China? If so, do the juries have any say in whether someone gets life in prison or the death sentence?

        • by Sinbios (852437)

          Why does it have to be religious? It's simply a cultural taboo.

          If you did something that got the death penalty sicced on you though, you don't deserve the niceties of social taboos.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Opportunist (166417)

            You're working under the assumption that the verdict comes out of a "fair" trial, i.e. where the crime is the base for the verdict. You might notice the circular problem you're heading into: When he is outside the social taboo and norm for being sentenced to death, the reverse is true as well, sentencing him to death puts him outside of the social norms and thus everything's fair. So if we had some sort of "commission" that tells whether someone can be harvested or not, the result would always be positive b

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by eulernet (1132389)

      Except that a lot of executed people are innocent, like the members of Falun Gong http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falungong [wikipedia.org]
      Basically, it's a large sect, which teaches QiGong.

      Repression is very hard, and Falun Gong members are sent to prison, and a lot of them have been executed to grab their body parts.
      I guess that because they practice qigong, they are healthy and provide nice body parts.

      Funnily, China government said that Falun Gong was a dangerous sect, probably because you risk your life by following this

    • Words Fail Me. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jeko (179919)

      I mean, "ghoul" comes to mind, but it's the only one that comes close.

      They are parting people out for profit. Literal chop-shops for human bodies. It's a proposition only the most extreme horror movies have touched. It's the walking definition of Capital-E Evil.

      You have to remember there have been three parts to the accusations. They just ADMITTED to the first one.

      1. That the Chinese were selling organs of condemned prisoners, which they've always denied until now, and
      2. That many of these people were conde

      • I dunno why everbody is suddenly surprised, it has been known for quite a long time that China harvest organs from death row prisoner (end of 90 local china group were claimoring it, 2000 some major paper reported it, and I assume by then many state department knew it), what is NEW is that they admitted it *NOW* and want to introduce ethical organ harvesting practice. So whereas everybody get their panty in a knot and cheap shot China, one should note (as the WHO did) that this is a bettering of the situati
        • Ted Bundy just called and promises to be a much better date from now on.
          Ed Gein promises to start collecting only stamps tomorrow.
          And Albert Fish is going to be a better baby-sitter than Mary Poppins, come the morning.

          Take these three monsters, toss in the Zodiac, the Ripper, and all the other shattered bloody psyches we now know by their full first-middle-last names. Hell, you might as well throw in Jason Vorhees and Dexter to boot, because it won't matter when it comes to numbers.

          All of them together PALE

      • Thank you for your moral outcry. We're all in shock and horror about it. What a terrible, terrible thing to do, the horrors only paralleled by the child soldiers of Africa and the ethnic clensing there, nothing else could even come close.

        Let's go to the mall and buy some cheap electronic crap to calm us down, will we?

      • by dbIII (701233)

        I mean, "ghoul" comes to mind, but it's the only one that comes close.
        They are parting people out for profit. Literal chop-shops for human bodies. It's a proposition only the most extreme horror movies have touched. It's the walking definition of Capital-E Evil.

        I thought exactly the same thing about the USA when the news came out that the fresh grave of the radio presenter Alistair Cooke had been robbed and body parts removed and sold. The answer is not to blame the country, it's to blame the perpetrator

      • It's a proposition only the most extreme horror movies have touched. It's the walking definition of Capital-E Evil.
        Soylent Green is people, it's people. Not really that extreme.
      • by ryanvm (247662)
        Uh. Words did not fail you. In fact, about halfway through I was wishing they did.

    • possible conflict of interest

      Possible? Are you a moron? whatever they were sentenced to death for might be exactly no more than "we needed some organs, and you were in the wrong place at the wrong time." You assume that the prisoners, in China, would be guilty of whatever they were charged with. I wouldn't make that assumption in the US, let alone China.
    • I do agree to some degree, but there are a few arguments against it. Most of them, based on human nature.

      1) If it's profitable, it will be done.
      If it is profitable to execute people, people will be executed more easily. This could well lead to some sort of prejudice towards killing certain groups of people (with rare blood types or other features that make them more "desirable" as donors).

      2) Selective "killing as needed".
      As a result of the last sentence under 1), it could lead to 'harvesting' organs from pr

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Well, to avoid the problems that go along with illegal organ trade (e.g. abduction of grown-ups and especially children), some countries have a reverse approach:
      In Luxembourg, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Czech republic and Hungary, you have to register if you do not want your organs to be donated after you passed away.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Hal_Porter (817932)

      I think that it would be a waste NOT to use these organs. The prisoners will be executed either way, might as well make them contribute some good to society to offset whatever they were sentenced to death for. There is a possible conflict of interest, though, if the judges start getting paid off to sentence people to death...

      http://www.lilywong.net/archive/arc990426.htm [lilywong.net]

      The last but one cartoon -

      "Excuse me comrade, what blood type are you"
      "AB+"
      "And wouldn'y you say that Li Peng is a fascist murderous dog?"
      "Well yes but don't tell any-"

      I guess if you had hypothetically a country where all people executed were actually guilty of a real crime and the organs were used for the public good it would be different. China isn't like that - it's easy to get people bumped off for political reasons and organs have been sold abroad. It's by

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I think that it would be a waste NOT to use these organs.

      Yeah, there's all those people just walking around, what they hell are they using their organs for?

      The simple truth is that you don't need death vans [usatoday.com] if your society is healthy. Instead of making their country a better place, they are simply making a profit on the creation of criminals, and their eventual murder. ALL EXECUTIONS ARE MURDER, the premeditated taking of a life. You might think that's okay (hypocrite) but another simple truth is that governments take actions which affect the people. The governme

  • Don't worry (Score:5, Funny)

    by PakProtector (115173) <cevkiv@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @02:12AM (#29212789) Journal

    I'll get this all sorted out in a few hundred years.

    Love,
    The Brennan-monster

  • by loteck (533317) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @02:52AM (#29212993) Homepage
    You'll note [bodiestheexhibition.com] that all the specimens are Asian...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ionix5891 (1228718)

      Ive been to the exhibition and the flatly deny the bodies are from prisoners

      if anything the person who taught up of the exhibit donated his own body for the cause and it is there for all too see

      theres a smear campaign by the usual religious nut cases opposed to science and medicine

      • by Grym (725290) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @07:58AM (#29214757)

        The tell-tale sign is how young most of the bodies are with absolutely no trauma or anatomic evidence of disease or decay. Most of the bodies appear to be in their early to late twenties. The likelihood that all of these people died in hospital (if not laboratory) conditions of natural causes like cardiac arrhythmias is ridiculously unlikely to say the least.

        But, the real evidence comes from direct investigations [wikipedia.org] into the company itself. 20/20 did an investigation [youtube.com] into the company, Premier Exhibitions, Inc. and found the actual warehouse where the bodies are preserved. Needless to say, it is NOT where the company claimed it to be, and the interview with the company's founder at the end is priceless. Further investigations by the government pretty much confirmed everyone's suspicions.

        I'm surprised that all of this is news to many people. In 2006, Chinese authorities were bragging to the international media [timesonline.co.uk] about how successful their "death vans" have been. These death vans are ambulances turned mobile execution chambers expressly designed for the preservation of organs. So proud was the company's spokesman in one of the subsequent articles that he insisted any interested overseas buyers reading the article should contact him directly for sales.

        -Grym

        • Erm they almost all had black damaged lungs or cancers, and I tell you some of them bodies were far from old

  • by yogibaer (757010) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @03:02AM (#29213045)
    The Indiana University Center for Bioethics has an interesting bibliography about inmates and organ donation in the United States (not harvesting) http://www.bioethics.iu.edu/body.cfm?id=79 [iu.edu]. Obviously inmates are - in some states at least - not even allowed to donate their organs and in some cases not even to close family. The ethical questions concering the death penalty aside: Harvesting without consent is IMHO not an ethical thing to do under any circumstances. Whatever guilt there was has been paid with the death penalty, after that, the will of the deceased should be respected. In doubt, consider silence as a "no". That inmates are prohibited to donate organs (donate as in: Not for profit and of their own free will) is equally nonsensical.
  • Be a sensible geek (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @03:03AM (#29213059) Homepage

    I suspect most of us agree that after death we won't be needing those organs... So give society a favor and fill out that organ donor card. It's just one more card in your wallet after all. Saving someone's life post-mortem is not a bad last accomplishment. :)

    Granted, your liver might end up in a person worthy of a Darwin award, but it's a risk I'm willing to take myself. ;)

  • But analysts say cultural bias against removing organs after death will make a voluntary scheme hard to implement.'"

    Pah! Up here in Canda, we harvest human hearts while the donor is ALIVE!

  • by wvmarle (1070040) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:04AM (#29213743)

    That is what I thought when I read TFA.

    There has long been speculation that killed inmates were used for organ donations - not in the least because often the family can not see the body, and execution dates are set usually less than a day or sometimes only hours before the execution. So many families can not say farewell to the prisoner. And organs for donation are of course best used fresh.

    What is new of course, and what surprises me, is that the China government admits they are doing it. They are usually so secretive about anything that may be controversial, this admission comes really as a surprise to me.

    Organ donation in China is far far lower than in the West. This is largely cultural (same as in Hong Kong, my place of residence), as people believe the body is best kept intact for burial/cremation. While in Western cultures that is not so much an issue. As a result there are very few people allowing organs to be donated.

    But this article is also a bit sensationalist: they claim China puts more people to death than any other country. I am not surprised. China is the most populous nation in the world. Nr 2, India, also has the death penalty but is barely using this form of punishment. What would be more interesting would be the number of people put to death per million population or so. The USA is known for putting many people to death also, but China simply has more than four times the population.

  • by ConfusedVorlon (657247) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:38AM (#29214279) Homepage

    Create a central registry of organ donors.

    Once you have been on the registry for (say) two years, you get preference over someone else if you need an organ.

  • I really don't see the problem with using organs from dead people, they don't need or use them any more. nobody gets hurt. I do have a big problem with killing though, which includes the death penalty.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Deadplant (212273)

      You are correct about organs. But, as many have pointed out, the problem is that harvesting organs from people you kill creates a profit motive for killing people and thus creates pressure for more people to be killed.
      *That* is the problem.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sjf (3790)

      Hey, speak for yourself. My organs are going to be pickled in canopic jars so that I can use them in the afterlife. Except, my brain that is. You can scoop that out through my nose with a long spoon - won't be needing that, thank you very much.

  • The summary is presumably referring to Larry Niven's A gift from Earth [wikipedia.org] . It details a human colony that has become split into two - the Crew (descendants of the crew that flew the original ship), who rule over the Colonists. They have become dependant on organ transplants to the point that all crimes are punished by death - at which point their organs are harvested. Even worse, this is only done to the Colonists and the organs are only received by the Crew.

    Anyway, it's an interesting book. The main protag

  • by Britz (170620) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @08:31AM (#29215093) Homepage

    I read a report by a Chinese doctor who fled the country and said some donors were still alive when they started removing the organs. The donors were killed by a shooting squad and some weren't hit properly. The doctors were ordered to remove the organs anyways ASAP.

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