Executions rekindle debate about use of prisoners’ organs

Staff writer, with CNA

Tue, Dec 25, 2012 - Page 4

The execution of six death row inmates on Friday has revived debate among hospital administrators over the ethics of using organs donated by executed prisoners.

Of the six prisoners executed, those in Taipei, Greater Taichung and Greater Kaohsiung said they wished to donate their organs, but only one — Chen Chin-huo (陳金火) — had his wish fulfilled.

His organs were accepted by an unnamed hospital in Greater Taichung, one of the few hospitals in the nation willing to defy the 2008 Declaration of Istanbul, which condemns the use of prisoners’ organs, among other things.

Far Eastern Memorial Hospital was willing to accept the organs, but did not use those donated by Tseng Si-ru (曾思儒) because Tseng had hepatitis B and because it did not have time to carry out the tests required to use the organs.

The organs of the third executed donor, Tai Te-ying (戴德穎), were not accepted by Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Greater Kaohsiung, which cited misgivings about using the organs of executed convicts.

Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), director of the Department of Traumatology at National Taiwan University Hospital, said that his hospital does not use organs donated by executed prisoners.

He said that the 11 hospitals soliciting organ donations have varying attitudes toward using organs from executed prisoners.

Some hospitals completely reject such organs, while some use them only in an emergency and others decline them if a would-be recipient does not agree to their use. Still other medical facilities accept them, but refuse to extract them.

Tsai Chien-sung (蔡建松), director of the Department of Surgery at Tri-Service Hospital, said the main reason hospitals do not use the organs of executed prisoners is often practical rather than moral — there is not enough time to do the tests necessary to approve them for use. However, Far Eastern Memorial Hospital superintendent Chu Shu-hsun (朱樹勳) said he believed that rejection was also based on the tenets of Taoism and Buddhism.