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Australians get Chinese inmate organs

Australian Telegraph | December 19 2005

UP to seven Australians have received kidney transplants from death-row prisoners executed in China.

They are among dozens of Australians who have travelled overseas to buy organs in India and Asia, paying between $15,000 and $50,000 for the transplants.
But a number of those who have had the operations became seriously ill on their return, suffering infections or other complications after undergoing surgery in third-world hospitals.

Monash Medical Centre's Dr Ian Main said: "I am aware of one patient who has a lethal virus as a consequence and I've seen two patients who are very sick."

At least two people from NSW have received kidney transplants in China believed to have come from executed prisoners in recent years, along with three Victorians and one patient each from both South Australia and Queensland.

Dr Main said a blow-out in Australian waiting lists for kidneys - there are currently about 1600 people awaiting transplants - meant more people were now willing to take their chances and pay for a kidney overseas.

"I believe one of the patients that I am aware of had that process (through an executed Chinese prisoner), but the patient themselves wasn't sure," Dr Main said. "The patients are often reluctant to give details because they are aware that it is something that is frowned upon."

One transplant surgeon said he had to remove a kidney transplanted into an Australian in Iraq or Iran several years ago because the organ was not "plumbed" properly.

Another specialist, Dr Shlomo Cohney, was also aware of five or six patients who had paid for organs overseas. Dr Cohney said some had returned with "wounds still open" or after being discharged prematurely from hospital with post-operative complications.

Monash Medical Centre transplant physician Dr John Kanellis said he had successfully discouraged up to three patients from undergoing overseas transplants in the past year.

Most of the Chinese prisoner organs are taken at Chongqing military hospital, with the condemned prisoner being allowed to die under anaesthetic after the organs are removed rather than facing a firing squad.

Chinese officials have previously claimed some of the money paid by recipients is given to the family of the deceased and the organs can only be harvested with family and prisoner consent.

Amnesty International has accused China, which executes 5000 or more prisoners a year, of taking organs without family knowledge.

Transplant Australia director Mark Cocks - who himself arranged to pay $10,000 to an Indian family in the early 1990s for a kidney before receiving a transplant from his sister - said he had no ethical problem with commercial transplants because of the long wait, an average four years, for transplants within Australia.

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