Chinese hospital staff accused of illegal organ harvesting

Zhuang Pinghui

Six medical staff, including a doctor, have been arrested in China on suspicion of illegally harvesting organs from a patient.

The patient, Li Ping, had been left brain-dead after her son attacked her with an axe in Anhui province in the country’s southeast in February last year, Thepaper.cn reported on Wednesday.

Li’s other son, Shi Xianglin, who was also wounded in the attack, said the family was told that they would be given 200,000 yuan (US$28,300) in “government subsidies” if they agreed to donate Li’s organs, and she was taken to a hospital in Nanjing where the procedure was carried out.

But he became suspicious after noticing that the form authorising the transplant had not been filled in correctly and contacted the China Organ Donation Administrative Centre.

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He said the head of the intensive care unit in Huaiyan county, Yang Suxun, had told the family that he had applied for the “highest level” of government subsidies, but staff from the Red Cross, which helps run the organ donor centre, told him the government did not pay for donations.

“Organ donations are free. It is not possible to pay hundreds of thousands of yuan in compensation to the donor’s family,” Li Hu, the association’s Huaiyuan county branch head, said.

Shi reported his suspicion to the local health authority in June last year and an investigation was launched.

He also told investigators had also been sent a payment of 460,000 yuan through a middleman in an apparent attempt to buy his silence.

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Yang and five unnamed employees from the Nanjing hospital have since been arrested and in May this year they were charged with insulting a body, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of three years. The case is yet to be tried.

The son who attacked Li was eventually sentenced to 14 years and eight months in prison for the fatal attack, with the court ruling that his mental illness meant he had diminished responsibility.

China established a voluntary donation system in 2015 as part of a series of measures to address charges that it was permitting organ trafficking and harvesting them from executed prisoners. The process is now overseen by the China Organ Donation Administrative Centre, which is affiliated to the Red Cross Society.

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