A Canadian patient's receipt of a kidney transplant recently after waiting just three days during a recent visit to China raised an immediate red flag among surgeons at the Montreal-based Transplantation Society. A turnaround that quick indicates the organ likely came from the body of an executed prisoner.
The case adds to doubts among many doctors internationally about whether China has met its pledge to stop harvesting the organs of executed inmates. The practice is widely condemned by the World Health Organization and others because of concerns over coercive practices and fears it could encourage executions. China officially claims it ended the harvesting of executed inmates' organs in January 2015.
China sought to use the Transplantation Society's decision to hold its annual meeting in Hong Kong this last month as validation of its organ donation system.
But Dr. Philip O'Connell, the society's president, rejected that interpretation, even if it appeared some reforms had been successful. In a country that routinely suppresses discussions of human-rights issues and cracks down on lawyers and independent groups, government officials and state media have been relatively open about China's problems with organ donation.
Dr. Huang Jiefu, head of the system that supervises transplants in Chinese hospitals, has been the public face of the country's attempts to change its transplant practices. Huang publicly admitted in 2005 that doctors used executed prisoners' organs. In 2011, Huang and other officials estimated that 65 percent of transplanted organs from the deceased came from executed prisoners. In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, Huang said he was confident hospitals under his purview were moving to donated organs, but that black-market surgeries still persist. "We still have a long way to go," Huang said. According to the government, Chinese doctors performed 10,057 organ transplants in 2015.
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