China announces end date for taking prisoners' organs

File photo: China prison
Image caption Most transplant organs came from prisoners, based on previous estimates

A senior Chinese official has said the country will phase out the practice of taking organs from executed prisoners from November.

Huang Jiefu said China would now rely on using organs from voluntary donors under a new national donation system.

Prisoners used to account for two-thirds of transplant organs, based on previous estimates from state media.

For years, China denied that it used organs from executed prisoners, but admitted it a few years ago.

Official figures from China's newly formed health and planning commission show that, on an annual basis, there are on average 300,000 patients who need organ transplants, but only 10,000 of them are able to get them, state media said.

Mr Huang, who is in charge of organ transplants and one of the country's leading surgeons, said the health ministry would start using organs from voluntary citizen donors in November.

More than 150 Chinese hospitals are expected to to confirm their participation, he added.

"I am confident that before long, all accredited hospitals will forfeit the use of prisoner organs," he told Reuters news agency on Thursday.

He also told the state-run Global Times that it was time for China to establish a "suitable organ donation system".

Human rights groups estimate that China executes thousands of prisoners a year, but correspondents say that the official figures remain a state secret.

In March last year, Mr Huang announced China's pledge to end the practice of taking organs from executed prisoners within the next five years.

At the time, he said that organ donations from prisoners were not ideal because infections are usually high, affecting the long-term survival rates of those who undergo the transplants.

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