The Use of Executed Prisoners as a Source of Organ Transplants in China Must Stop

G.M. Danovitch, M. E. Shapiro, J. Lavee


Internationally accepted ethical standards are unequivocal in their prohibition of the use of organs recovered from executed prisoners: yet this practice continues in China despite indications that Ministry of Health officials intend to end this abhorrent practice. Recently published articles on this topic emphasize the medical complications that result from liver transplantation from executed ‘donors’ but scant attention is given to the source of the organs, raising concern that the transplant community may be coming inured to unacceptable practice. Strategies to influence positive change in organ donation practice in China by the international transplant community are discussed. They include an absolutist policy whereby no clinical data from China is deemed acceptable until unacceptable donation practices end, and an incremental policy whereby clinical data is carefully evaluated for acceptability. The relative advantages and drawbacks of these strategies are discussed together with some practical suggestions for response available to individuals and the transplant community.

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