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China to end transplanting inmate organs

BEIJING, March 23 (UPI) -- The practice of taking organs for transplant from executed prisoners will end in three to five years, a senior Chinese health official said.

Huang Jiefu, vice minister of health, told a conference Thursday China is creating a national organ donation system to lower its reliance on donations from death-row inmates and encourage donations from the public, Xinhua reported.

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Trial organ-donation systems have been started in 16 of the mainland's 31 provincial-level regions, Huang said.

"The pledge to abolish organ donations from condemned prisoners represents the resolve of the government," he said.

Health officials have said insufficient organ donations by the general population meant the majority of transplant organs in China were from prisoners who gave their consent before being executed.

Ministry of Health data indicated about 1.5 million people in China need transplants but only about 10,000 of the operations are performed annually.

Xinhua said China's criminal code was revised in February 2011 to establish penalties for criminal organ-related activity. People convicted of forced organ removal or donations could face homicide charges. People convicted of organizing illegal organ sales could be sentenced to up to five years in prison and fined.

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