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China Admits Use of Death-Row Organs 309

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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 27, 2009 @02:31AM (#29212881)

    I have not heard any outcries about "Zionist barbarians". I believe you are misrepresenting the views of the people you are opposing. It is a cheap trick that does not add anything constructive to the discussion. Please stop doing that.

    It is a fact that there is organized, illegal organ trade in Israel. See for example an article in Jerusalem Post, Jul 23, 2007 (available on the web). I do not believe that this a "total fabrication", as the Jerusalem Post would presumably have little interest in fabricated smearing in this case. Or do you mean that the accusations against the _state_ of Israel are untrue, as opposed to the accusations against _citizens_ of Israel?

    In the case of China, I believe it has been proved that the state is involved. On the other hand, Chinese organ trade uses bodies of its own citizens, whereas in the Israeli case, bodies of citizens from other countries are used. I think it is completely fair to demand investigations in both cases.

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

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

    by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @03:11AM (#29213105) Journal

    China is actually a lot more restrained than Iran.

    So what? That's not even like hailing a turd for being the least smelly in the park. It's like hailing it for being only the second most smelly as opposed to the worst.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 27, 2009 @03:12AM (#29213109)

    Doctors make bank. Insurance companies make bank. Maybe it is different in China, but if only we PAID surviving beneficiaries for organs, resistance would go down. Imagine, even if you die penniless you don't have to saddle your family with funeral costs. It would still be voluntary but it would be beneficial (or not - nothing prevents pure donations). They could set up a standard 'no risk' payment schedule ("we harvest/we pay") and nations would be swimming in organs. Black market influence - whether real or imagined - should be diminished. It works for plasma and sperm.

  • by Laminan ( 1625947 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @03:23AM (#29213167)
    Some people feel that they will not get the full medical care that they would have gotten otherwise. For instance when you do not opt-in, Doctors would hopefully fight until the very end to save you. Should you opt-in, when does the Doctor draw the line to save you versus save the organs for transplant. Doctors cannot save you AND the organs, so when people feel troubled that this creates a conflict of interest with their mortality at stake, they vote against it. This may be based on incorrect data, but it is a prevalent attitude.
  • by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @04:17AM (#29213433)
    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 situation. China should be encouraged at that point in time , because they are trying to do the right thing. And all I see in this thread are cheap shots.
  • 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.

  • by chrb ( 1083577 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @04:47AM (#29213613)

    The allegations are recent and were made by a Swedish tabloid newspaper, see Wikipedia [wikipedia.org].

    BBC News article [bbc.co.uk]

    CNN article [cnn.com]

    There have been allegations of an Israeli human body part smuggling ring for years (2003 BBC report [bbc.co.uk]).

    The new allegations centre around a scandal in New Jersey in which two state legislators and several Rabbis have been arrested for trafficking in human body parts [slate.com]. The Slate article claims that Jewish religious law allow most other laws can be broken to save the life of a Jew ("for the sake of saving a life, a Jew is allowed to break just about any commandment." [slate.com]) and that the Rabbis would see human body part trafficking as a good thing ("They sincerely felt they were not hurting anyone; indeed, by giving life to another, they probably felt they were mimicking the divine. They were in the business of saving lives.") The additional allegation made by the Swedish newspaper is that the IDF were removing organs from Palestinian prisoners who die in custody, and from other sources of dead Palestinian bodies, in order to supply the smuggling groups.

  • Re:A Waste? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @04:50AM (#29213633)

    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.

  • Re:A Waste? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by chrb ( 1083577 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @04:56AM (#29213679)

    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.

  • 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.

  • Re:A Waste? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by buchner.johannes ( 1139593 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:09AM (#29213777) Homepage Journal

    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:A Waste? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Evil Couch ( 621105 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @05:18AM (#29213831) Homepage
    Fair enough. As of 2008's CIA estimate, China has 1,330,044,544 people and Iran has 65,875,224, making the execution rates 1.29 per million in China and 5.25 per million in Iran.

    For fun, I ran the numbers on the next three highest (and consistantly highest) capital states. Saudi Arabia, with 27,601,038 people and 102 executions, has 3.70 per million. The USA, with 304,059,724 people and 37 executions, has 0.12. Pakistan, with 172,800,048 people and 36 executions, has 0.21.
  • Re:A Waste? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by OeLeWaPpErKe ( 412765 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:01AM (#29214089) Homepage

    Please keep in mind that China has a billion people living within it's borders, Iran is -barely- the size of a single state in terms of people.

    It's normal that China has more executions in absolute numbers. Relatively speaking :

    China : 1,718 executions / 1,338,612,968 people = 1 person executed per 780,000 people per year
    Iran : 348 executions / 66,429,284 people = 1 person executed per 190,000 people per year (at least 30 were executed for the crime of being gay, another 15 at least were girls below the age of 14 according to amnesty international. You'd wonder why girls are so much more deserving of the death penalty, but they're muslims, apparently that's normal*)
    (note that since the election this has risen to 115 executions / 66,429,284 * (365/50) = 1 execution per 80,000 people, nearly all of them for political opposition)

    (for comparison : the US for 2008 : 37 executions / 307,212,123 people = 1 execution per 8 million people, or 1/10th of china's proportion, or less than 1/100th the amount of people Iran executes. Not a single woman was executed, nor any minors. Nobody was executed for political opinions, religious opinions, or sexual orientation).

    * you may disagree with the thesis that islam orders the killing of minors. But it is not for us to assign motives to Iranian acts, it's for Iranians to do so. Why were these people executed ? For "violating" islam ("sharia" translates to "the path of the righteous", and is not a law as we know it). How were these minor girls executed ? By stoning, hanging and throwing them off buildings, exactly as islam dictates (there is no section of islam that is called sharia, just like jewish law is nowhere to be found in the torah (by contrast you will find canon law in the bible*), what muslims claim you violate when you "violate sharia" is not a penal code, but a story)

    * of course that's one of the very last parts that were added to the bible, so you could have a serious discussion about it ... but at least it's in there

  • Re:A Waste? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:26AM (#29214227)

    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.

  • by ionix5891 ( 1228718 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @06:29AM (#29214245)

    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 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.

  • Re:A Waste? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @08:15AM (#29214957)

    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"
    "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 no means impossible that people were killed for their organs after being executed on trumped up charges.

    In fact this cartoon was so close to the mark that the new pro Beijing owner of the paper axed Lily Wong. And consider the mechanics of doing it. Organs are only usable if the subject was alive when they were removed -

    http://www.forumosa.com/taiwan/viewtopic.php?p=929793&sid=b0e8f5caf5b2cda82f9fee83f4b4a5e9#p929793 [forumosa.com]

    My wife's cousin was the head of surgery at a military hospital in China and he told us back in 1989 that they were harvesting organs from prisoners at execution time... he explained that they had to mortally wound the prisoner but not kill them so that the organs stayed in better condition while they immediately opened the victims to harvest the organs while in an ambulance on the way to a nearby hospital...

    He explained that they only did this to criminals who were convicted of really horrible crimes, such as the guy who repeatedly shoved a large knife down the throat of his rape victim, a selfless young nurse.

    Now I'm guessing be shot and then chopped up in an ambulance is a very nasty way to go. In fact the Doctor's comment that it only happened to 'really horrible criminals' basically confirms this. And of course anyone that opposes the government might well have found themselves being convicted of a 'really horrible crime' even they were innocent.

    Still think it's a good idea? I don't trust any government with the power to do this sort of thing, least of all the Chinese one.

  • Re:A Waste? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @08:18AM (#29214979)

    The USA does better at homicide. In all categories.

  • Re:A Waste? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Sinbios ( 852437 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @08:41AM (#29215187) Homepage

    Execution rate inversely proportional to homicide rate? Interesting correlation...

  • Re:A Waste? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sinbios ( 852437 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @08:53AM (#29215283) Homepage

    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 Deadplant ( 212273 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:12AM (#29215541)

    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.

It seems intuitively obvious to me, which means that it might be wrong. -- Chris Torek