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Charges laid over illegal sale of human kidneys in China

By David Challenger, CNN
March 1, 2012 -- Updated 0759 GMT (1559 HKT)
A nurse tends to patients at a Beijing hospital. The organ trafficking case allegedly involves doctors from state-run facilities.
A nurse tends to patients at a Beijing hospital. The organ trafficking case allegedly involves doctors from state-run facilities.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sixteen people allegedly helped sell 51 human kidneys worth $1.6 million
  • The ring allegedly helped scores of customers find organs by targeting poor men
  • One analyst believes the shortage of donated organs in China is the main motive

(CNN) -- A Beijing court has prosecuted more than a dozen people for organizing the illegal sale of 51 human kidneys worth about 10 million yuan (US$1.6 million) in one of China's biggest organ trafficking cases.

The ring, headed by Zheng Wei, allegedly helped scores of customers find organs by paying mostly young and poor men approximately 25,000 yuan each. Their kidneys were then sold for about 200,000 yuan, according to the state-controlled People's Daily.

The Beijing Haidian District People's Procuratorate prosecuted Zheng and 15 others involved in the scam, including some doctors from state-run hospitals.

According to reports, an operation room from a township hospital in Jiangsu Province was set up between March and June of 2010, where more than 20 kidneys were removed from living "sellers" and sent to Beijing for patients suffering from kidney disease.

Zheng then purportedly moved the operational base to Beijing in the second half of the year to ensure easier transportation of the organs and to minimize their spoiling. Police busted up the ring in December.

One analyst believes the shortage of donated organs in China is the main motive for the growing practice, but added that the issue of ethics played its part.

"The involvement of medical staff in such illegal acts reflects management loopholes in hospitals. Strengthening professional ethics of doctors is important to wiping out the illegal dealings," Zhou Zijun, a professor at Peking University's School of Public Health, told the People's Daily.

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