Authorities in China have sentenced six people, including four prestigious doctors, for illegally obtaining and harvesting organs. The sentencing comes as the country continues to struggle with a massive organ shortage.
Investigators found that between 2017 and 2018, the group removed the kidneys and livers from 11 people at the Huaiyuan County People’s Hospital hospital in Anhui. The scheme worked by tricking the patients’ families into thinking that they were signing off on legitimate organ donations. The ring allegedly targeted victims of car accidents and those who suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage. Yang Suxun, the hospital’s head of the intensive care unit, would ask a patient’s family to consent to donate their deceased loved one’s organs. The family members who consented would later discover that the consent forms were fraudulent.
The victims were then removed from the hospital in the middle of the night. They were placed in a van that resembled an ambulance. However, officials say that the van was used as a mobile surgical facility, where doctors would remove the organs. Once the organs were successfully removed, they were then sold to individuals or other hospitals that were contacted by members of the organ trafficking ring.
The elaborate scheme came to a head when Shi Xianglin grew suspicious following his mother’s death in 2018. Upon re-examining the organ donation documents, he discovered several discrepancies, including sections of the completely blank form. He also found no records of his mother’s organs being donated by provincial authorities or the China Organ Donation Administrative Centre in Beijing. Once he confronted Yang with his findings, he was offered hush money. He contacted authorities immediately.
China has long been a hotspot for organ harvesting. Public donations have slowed, leaving healthcare providers desperate to find donors. For years the country came under fire for harvesting the organs of executed prisoners. While the practice ended in 2015, there’s no way to say for certain that it stopped completely.
In July, all six men who participated in the organ trafficking ring were sentenced to jail terms between 10 and 28 months for “deliberately destroying corpses.”