Procurement of organs from executed prisoners

China relies heavily on organ procurement from executed prisoners, and has been a key destination for transplant tourists.

The procurement of organs from executed prisoners has been widely condemned by the international medical community, notably by The Transplantation Society, the Declaration of Istanbul Custodian Group and the World Medical Association. As articulated in the policy of the Transplantation Society:

"It is a fundamental principle for The Transplantation Society that organs and tissues are given freely and without coercion. Because of the restrictions in liberty in a prison environment it is unlikely that prisoners are truly free to make independent decisions and thus an autonomous informed consent for donation cannot be obtained. Further, the financial incentive for recovering organs from executed prisoners may become an incentive to increase the number of such organs available for transplantation. Thus, The Transplantation Society is opposed to the recovery of organs and tissues from executed prisoners and from any other individual where an autonomous consent for the procurement is lacking."

The World Medical Association declares that,

"In jurisdictions where the death penalty is practised, executed prisoners must not be considered as organ and/or tissue donors. While there may be individual cases where prisoners are acting voluntarily and free from pressure, it is impossible to put in place adequate safeguards to protect against coercion in all cases."

A number of public statements by national health authorities and policy changes have been made in China since 2006, indicating that China aims to end the practice of organ procurement from prisoners and develop an allocation system for deceased donor organs. Signs of progress have been welcomed and encouraged by the international community, however serious concerns remain about the ongoing use of organs from executed prisoners.

Below you will find a number of news reports and journal papers discussing this issue:


Title Created Date
Historical development and current status of organ procurement from death-row prisoners in China 04 December 2015
Organ procurement in China - DICG members share their personal perspectives 03 May 2015
Correspondence with the Governor Utah re prisoners 18 April 2015
Open letter to Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China: China's fight against corruption in organ transplantation. 10 September 2014
Overhauling China's organ transplant system could take some time 10 January 2015
Mindset an obstacle to organ transplants in China 15 December 2014
Media reports announcing an end to the use of organs from executed prisoners in China are misleading 14 December 2014
Organ procurement from executed prisoners in China 11 August 2014
No Quick Fixes for China’s Overwhelmed Organ Transplant System 17 December 2013
The Hangzhou Resolution and Report of Meeting with Minister Bin Li of the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People's Republic of China 08 November 2013

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