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China to Stop Using Organ Transplants from Executed Prisoners

FILE - A death-sentenced criminal is taken on a truck to an execution ground in Zhuzhou, central China's Hunan province.

China, which uses capital punishment more than any other country, says it will soon stop transplanting organs from executed prisoners.
State media on Thursday reported the controversial practice would be "comprehensively" terminated by the beginning of next month.

China has one of the world's lowest organ donation rates and has long made up for the shortage by using organs from death row inmates.

The organ harvesting program has serious ethical concerns and has been the focus of widespread international condemnation.

Some rights groups say organ transplants are carried out without the consent of the prisoners or their families. Others say executions are sometimes expedited in order to meet specific organ demands.

China has rejected those accusations. It has at the same time promised for years to eventually end the practice.

It is unclear how Beijing will make up for the organ shortage after the end of the program, which as recently as 2012 made up for 64 percent of all of China's organ transplants.

China recently started a voluntary organ donation program. But many Chinese are reluctant to participate, in part because of cultural or religious objections.

Huang Jiefu, who heads China's Organ Donation Committee, was quoted by state media as saying only 0.6 out of every million people in China donate their organs. He said that compares to 37 per one million citizens in Spain.

Huang also acknowledged that "traditional thinking" and "concerns as to whether organ donation can be fair, just and transparent" have kept people from participating.

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