Kidney trafficking operation smashed

Updated: 2013-08-21 00:35

By Jin Haixing in Beijing and Liu Kun in Wuhan (China Daily)

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Illegal transplant team conducts makeshift surgery in Hubei villa

Police in Hubei province are investigating a kidney-trafficking ring it broke up over the weekend and that it suspects of conducting at least eight illegal kidney transplant operations.

Police said that more than 10 suspects were detained, including a team of four doctors and nurses. They are suspected of taking part in the sale and transplant of organs for money, which is strictly prohibited in China.

It is the first case of the provincial police breaking up an inter-provincial organ-trafficking ring, Yang Huailiu, a spokeswoman of Wuhan Public Security Bureau, said on Tuesday.

Police received a tip from a whistle-blower this month, who said kidney harvesting and transplants were taking place illegally in a suburban villa in the Jiangxi district of Wuhan.

They raided the villa on Saturday morning and stopped a kidney operation before it started.

Most participants in the illegal transaction, including the donors of the kidney and the medical team, were from outside of Hubei province, Yang told China Daily.

Police said that the trafficking ring had made huge profits from the illegal trade.

A recipient had to spend 400,000 yuan ($65,000) to get a kidney, but the donor was paid only 30,000 yuan. The rest of the money was shared among the doctors, nurses, and the ring members.

The doctor who was in charge of the operation got 130,000 yuan. The anesthetist received 30,000 yuan and each nurse got 10,000 yuan. Informants are also paid a share for finding donors and customers requiring new organs.

According to a report from the local Chutian Metropolis Daily, at least eight illegal kidney transplant operations had been carried out in the villa. Among them was an operation performed on the whistle-blower, who found his health worsened after selling his left kidney.

The whistle-blower said that the doctor not only took out the kidney in the villa, but also transplanted the kidney for the recipient there. Police said it is rare for the two operations to be conducted at the same time.

According to the newspaper, the ringleader, a man surnamed Xu, 34, spent 600,000 yuan to buy medical equipment for the illegal operation.

The police spokeswoman said that further investigations are underway and the police will make the results public as soon as possible.

In China, only 165 hospitals are authorized as organ transplant centers. As of this year, nearly half of the transplanted organs came from death-row inmates, and the rest came from deceased organ donors.

But the number of organs needed far exceeds those available.

According to the National Health and Family Planning Commission, only one in 30 patients awaiting transplants in the country is able to have an operation because of a severe shortage of donated organs.

The country's health authority says it is working to ensure the fair distribution of organs.

China Daily previously reported that a national regulation requiring that transplant hospitals use a computer-based organ allocation system will be issued next month.

Under the new directive on human organ procurement and allocation, those who do not distribute donations via the system will be punished, or even have their licenses revoked.