BEIJING (Reuters) - Police in eastern China have arrested 18 people after a raid on two clinics offering illegal organ transplants, state news agency Xinhua reported on Wednesday.
The clinics in Jinan, Shandong’s provincial capital, were raided on Sunday as doctors were preparing a kidney transplant, Xinhua cited local police as saying.
“Police were tipped off earlier this month, and then launched a probe with the city’s health bureau against the two clinics. They found that vehicles and people regularly shuttled between the two clinics, which were not far away from each other,” the report said.
China in 2007 banned organ transplants from living donors, except spouses, blood relatives and step or adopted family members, but launched a national system to coordinate donations after death in 2009. The organ shortage has driven a trade in illegal organ trafficking in the country.
“Reports about illegal transplants indicate there appears to be a large underground network profiting from the country’s demand for donor organs,” Xinhua added.
Police this month arrested three doctors for “illegally harvesting human organs” in northern Hebei province, it said. The doctors were all from Shandong.
Nearly 1.5 million people in China need organ transplants each year, but only 10,000 can get one, according to the Health Ministry.
Many organs for transplant are still harvested from executed criminals, according to Chinese media, something senior health officials have expressed distaste at.
The government is trying to come up with incentives to get people to voluntarily donate organs.