China moves to halt organ donations from executed prisoners

Chinese officials plan to phase out organ harvesting of death-row inmates, a move to overhaul a transplant system that has for years relied on prisoners and organ traffickers to serve those in need of transplants.

Huang Jiefu, China's vice minister of health, said on Thursday that Chinese officials plan to abolish the practice within the next five years and to create a national organ donation system, according to a report from the state-controlled Xinhua News Agency.

"The pledge to abolish organ donations from condemned prisoners represents the resolve of the government," Xinhua quoted Huang as saying. The Ministry of Health didn't respond to requests for comment.

Officials in the world's most populous country have admitted that China has depended for years on executed prisoners as its main source of organ supply for ailing citizens.

Human rights groups say the harvesting is forced and influences the pace of China's executions.

Huang has been quoted in state media reports as saying the rights of death-row prisoners have been fully respected and that the state asks for written consent prior to donation.

Due in part to traditional beliefs and distrust of the medical system, voluntary donations are rare in China, where the need for organs far exceeds the supply. An estimated 1.5 million people in China are in need of organ transplants annually, while only 10,000 receive them, according to government statistics.

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