BEIJING, July 4 -- Medical institutions must give
priority to Chinese citizens - and not foreigners - for organ transplants, the
Ministry of Health (MOH) said Tuesday.
It is estimated that 2 million Chinese need
transplants each year, but only 20,000 operations are conducted because of a
shortage of organs, according to Vice-Minister of Health Huang Jiefu.
Foreigners are forbidden from coming on so-called
medical tours for transplants; but in special circumstances, can apply to
Their cases will be appraised by provincial medical
authorities and final approval is needed from the Ministry of Health before
MOH spokesman Mao Qun'an said that the procedure does
not mean that the government is easing the ban on foreign patients seeking organ
transplants on visit visas.
The move is more out of humanitarian considerations,
But Zhang Lei, a leading organ transplant surgeon at
Beijing Friendship Hospital, suggested that foreigners have the operation in
their country of residence because of follow-up treatment.
"We always give priority to Chinese patients for
organ transplants," Zhang said.
However, he noted that some domestic hospitals seek
foreign patients to make profits, and some brokers rake in a lot by organizing
organ transplants for overseas patients.
"The world is getting flat but globalization in the
medical sector, to some extent, denies a fair chance for Chinese nationals."
A rising number of well-off foreigners have come to
China for kidney, liver, and other organ transplants, lured by the illegal
availability of organs, rapidly improving medical facilities and first-class
Most are from the Middle East and neighboring
countries such as Japan and South Korea. The cost is only a fraction of what it
is in their home countries.
More than 3,000 South Koreans, according to media
reports in the country, had organ transplant operations in China in the past
A leading kidney specialist in Malaysia reportedly
said that more than 1,000 Malaysians have had kidney transplants in China in
China's regulations on human organ transplants, which
prohibit organizations and individuals from trading human organs in any form,
took effect in May.
Currently, about 160 Chinese medical institutions are
authorized to provide the service.
(Source: China Daily)