China's donated human organs will be sourced entirely from dead citizens instead of executed criminals within two years, said a former deputy head of the Ministry of Health, while experts said the move is of great significance both in human rights protection and the medical field.
Huang Jiefu, director with the human organ transplant clinical technology application management committee under the newly-established National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), said all provincial regions will carry out projects for donating organs after cardiac arrest as the relevant policies are now mature.
The ministry and the Red Cross Society of China piloted the project in regions including Guangdong Province and Tianjin Municipality in 2010, said Huang on Wednesday.
The project has seen a monthly increase of 100 cases since its pilot and has won public support, Huang said, adding that the total number of publicly donated organs has hit 1,010, which is helping phase out the sourcing of organs from the executed and relieves the pressure caused by a lack of organs.
Some hospitals have applied to be part of the pilot instead of using criminals' organs in an effort to provide better medical services.
The NHFPC said there are 300,000 patients waiting for organ transplants every year but only 10,000 of them can get the organs they need.
"It's time for China to establish a suitable organ donation system. Without public donations, China has no organs to transplant," Huang told China National Radio Thursday.
"Public organ donations can also improve the country's international image and promote the medical sciences," Yang Chunhua, director of the Intensive Care Unit of the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangdong Province, told the Global Times.
"China has been lambasted for violating human rights with organs from criminals," Yang said. "Chinese doctors don't even have the chance to publish their papers on organ transplants in international journals."
Previously, authorities used executed criminals' organs without their consent, while permission has been required in recent years, he said, adding that more time is still needed to totally end the use of organs from criminals as the lives of patients queuing up for transplants hang on a thread due to insufficient organ supplies.
Li Xuan, a member of the All China Lawyers Association, told the Global Times that the plan shows respect for human rights, and especially to the dead. "Criminals also have their posthumous dignity. Without permission from them or their relatives, no one should move their bodies or dispose of them," Li said, adding that the authorities should end the practice of using criminals' organs as soon as possible.
The NHFPC is planning to require 165 hospitals qualified to carry out organ transplants to establish organizations to receive donated organs, in order to ensure that the organs can be distributed and used fairly.