USA TODAY | Calum MacLeod
Photo: In China, black market organs are often removed from donors in makeshift clinics such as this four-story Beijing house at the center of the country's biggest organ-trafficking case.
TIANJIN, China – Zhang Xinyou was one of the lucky ones.
"If you don't do a liver transplant, you'll die," doctors told the cirrhosis sufferer, recalled his wife, Gao Li.
Zhang, 59, got his liver, but where it came from is something he doesn't want to ask.
"Most of the organs here come from executed prisoners," Gao, 57, says in hushed tones inside a transplant ward at the Tianjin First Center Hospital, the country's largest transplant facility. "I haven't considered whether it's right or wrong. All we want is a good liver."
As cultural taboos restrict voluntary organ donation, the systematic harvesting of organs from freshly executed prisoners provides almost two thirds of China's very limited supply of livers, kidneys, hearts, lungs and corneas, says vice health minister Huang Jiefu.
Last month, Huang announced Beijing will abolish the practice within the next three to five years and replace this controversial source with a new system that encourages donations of organs and regulates where they go.
That's a welcome promise but tough to realize, say China analysts, who doubt Chinese authorities can quickly shift social attitudes and sweep aside a practice in which some people profit from collusion between medical staff, judicial officers and the police.
Read more: http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2012-05-14/china-organ-transplant-ban/54964098/1