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    Wednesday, March 22, 2006

    Without Christian Morals, all that's left is Logic

    A recovering Mr Hokamura claims he is concerned with where his new kidney came from. "My translator said my donor was a young executed prisoner," says the businessman. "The donor was able to provide a contribution to society so what's wrong with that?"

    "It was cheap," adds Mr Hokamura, now back in Japan. "I can always earn more money."


    Hundreds of well-off Japanese and other nationals are turning to China's burgeoning human organ transplant industry, paying tens of thousands of pounds for livers and kidneys, which in some cases have been harvested from executed prisoners and sold to hospitals.

    When Kenichiro Hokamura's kidneys failed, he faced a choice: wait for a transplant or go online to check out rumours of organs for sale. As a native of Japan, where just 40 human organs for transplant have been donated since 1997, the businessman, 62, says it was no contest. "There are 100 people waiting in this prefecture alone. I would have died before getting a donor." Still, he was astonished by just how easy it was.

    Ten days after contacting a Japanese broker in China two months ago, he was lying on an operating table in a Shanghai hospital receiving a new kidney. "It was so fast, I was scared," he says. The "e-donor" was an executed man; the price: 6.8m yen (about £33,000).

    Sources say the cost of a kidney transplant runs to £37,000 and for a liver up to £88,000. Mr Hokamura paid another million yen for transport costs. There is little attempt to conceal the origins of the organs, the bulk of which are taken from executed prisoners.

    Says Mr Hokamura: "I was on dialysis for four years and four months. I was tired of waiting."

    The Chinese government insists it is trying to crack down on the market in illegal organs.

    But the signs spray-painted on the walls outside clinics and hospitals in many parts of China tell a different story. Simple and direct, these show a mobile phone number and the character for shen, which means "kidney", written alongside. Postings on numerous online bulletin boards and other internet sites also offer kidneys for sale.

    The sale of organs for transplants is illegal in China, but the black market is flourishing. And it's not just the small private hospitals and clinics springing up all over the country - even bigger hospitals in the capital Beijing and the business hub of Shanghai have adverts in toilet cubicles and on the walls of wards.

    Using logic to determine what is good or bad is entirely malleable. It's
    our First Things that our logic proceeds from that makes the difference.

    It feels safer around Christians.


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