Three hospitals have been punished this year for carrying out illegal organ transplants for foreigners, Vice Minister of Health Huang Jiefu has said.
The hospitals in Beijing, Tianjin and the Xinjiang Autonomous Region have been suspended from performing all transplants for a year, Hong Kong-based Ta Kung Pao Newspaper reported on Sunday.
If the hospitals are found with new violations, their licenses to perform organ transplants and those of their doctors to carry out the surgeries will be revoked, Huang said at a national organ transplant conference in Beijing.
The names of the hospitals and the details of their violations have not been revealed.
The hospitals are the first three medical institutions to be punished after the country issued regulations on human organ transplants in March last year. The authorities also gave priority of transplants to Chinese citizens in July last year.
The vice minister said that those involved in illegal organ transplants for foreigners, or "organ transplant tourism", will be severely punished.
In a recent article in the medical journal, The Lancet, written with two other authors, Huang said the huge volume of transplants have seen many non-Chinese patients coming to the country for the operations, where the procedures are faster and cheaper than in developed countries.
About 10,000 liver and kidney transplants were carried out, the article stated. It did not specify the number of such operations conducted on foreigners.
There are 164 organizations authorized to perform organ transplants in the country, down from more than 600 a year ago, Huang said.
There is no need to enlarge that number, as hospitals face a shortage of organ supplies, he added.
There are 1.5 million people in need of organ transplant, but only 1 percent is able to receive the treatment, Ministry of Health statistics have showed.
More organs are also being obtained from executed prisoners, he wrote in The Lancet last month.
During an inspection of organ donation in Shenzhen on Saturday, Huang said he hoped the country could build a national organ donation platform in five years.
(China Daily November 3, 2008)