The majority of transplanted organs in China come from executed prisoners, state media reported today in a rare disclosure about the country's problem of dubious organ donations.
Despite a 2007 regulation barring donations from people who are not related to or emotionally connected to the transplant patient, the China Daily newspaper said 65% of organ donations come from death row.
It quoted Vice Health Minister Huang Jiefu as saying written consent is required from condemned prisoners but that they are "definitely not a proper source for organ transplants".
To curb transplants from prisoners and other abuses, a new national organ donation system managed by the Red Cross Society and the Health Ministry was launched yesterday, the newspaper said.
China has previously acknowledged that kidneys, livers, corneas and other organs were routinely removed from prisoners sentenced to death, but gave no figures to show how widespread the practice was.
Voluntary donations remain far below demand in China, partly because of cultural biases against organ removal before burial.
The newspaper said about only 1% of the estimated one million people in China who need transplants are able to get one.
The scarcity of available organs has led to a lucrative black market, with traffickers selling organs from people pressured or forced into donating.
The newspaper said traffickers forge the necessary documents required since tighter regulations went into effect in 2007.
China executes more people than any other country.