CHENZHOU, Hunan, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- A surgeon and six others were sent to prison Thursday after being convicted for their involvement in the case of a teenager selling his kidney for an iPhone and an iPad.
Seven out of nine defendants were sentenced for intentional injury and two others, though guilty, were exempt from criminal punishment for their minor roles in the crime, according to the verdict.
The People's Court of Beihu District in Chenzhou City of central China's Hunan Province sentenced He Wei, who organized the illegal kidney trade in April 2011, to five years imprisonment.
Song Zhongyu, the surgeon who conducted the transplant, was sentenced to three years with a reprieve of five years.
The other five were given jail terms ranging from one to four years.
Wang, a 17-year-old high school student from Anhui Province, agreed to sell one of his kidneys after the teenager met the gang through an online chatroom.
His kidney was transplanted to someone in Chenzhou on April 28, 2011. Wang was given 22,000 yuan (around 3,500 U.S. dollars) and he bought an iPhone and an iPad with the money.
He later confessed to his mother when suffering from renal failure after the surgery.
He Wei earned 56,360 yuan and Song was given 52,000 yuan in the trade. The other seven defendants all received a share in the deal.
Among the nine defendants, five were prosecuted as the main culprits and four others including two nurses, a surgical assistant and an anesthesiologist who assisted in the transplant procedures, were tried as accessories to the crime, the court said.
None of them checked Wang's age before or during the operation, it said.
The court added that the nine defendants have paid compensation worth more than 1.47 million yuan to Wang. The compensation and forgiveness from the teenager and his family led to the court's leniency in sentencing.
Human organ trade and organ donations from living donors, except for close family members such as spouses and blood relatives, are illegal in the country.
China's Criminal Law stipulates that those convicted of "forced organ removal, forced organ donation or organ removal from juveniles" could face punishment for homicide.
But the law does not prevent underground organ trade from happening in a country where demands for transplants are huge.
Statistics from the Ministry of Health showed that about 1.5 million people in China need organ transplants, although only 10,000 such operations are performed annually.
"One third of transplanted organs are from relatives of the recipients," said Peng Longkai, director of the urinary organ transplant center at Xiangya No.2 Hospital, which is affiliated to Central South University in Changsha, Hunan's capital.
He said there is a shortage of kidneys in the country, which relies heavily on body organs from condemned prisoners.
Medical experts have long urged the establishment of a transparent system for organ donation and distribution in order to boost the number of donors.
"China should not only crackdown on the underground organ trade but also speed up in establishing a scientific and comprehensive system for organ transplants and donations," said Xia Xueluan, a sociology professor at Peking University.
Huang Jiefu, vice minister of health, said last week that China was considering an organ transplant system that incorporates measures including offering donors compensation, to encourage public organ donation.