A doctor and two of his assistants have been arrested for illegally harvesting human organs in Hebei province, state media reported yesterday.
Xinhua quoted an official from the Bazhou Municipal Public Security Bureau as saying police raided a private clinic on September 22 after getting reports that illegal organ transplants were taking place there.
The trio were caught red-handed preparing to remove a kidney from 21-year-old Anhui farmer Yang Ming, who had agreed to sell one of his kidneys, the Bazhou security official was quoted as saying.
The three people arrested were a doctor, an anaesthetist and a nurse, all from Dezhou Municipal People's Hospital in neighbouring Shandong province, the People's Daily said on its website.
A patient with kidney disease had paid 280,000 yuan (HK$340,300) to them to perform the transplant and just 20,000 yuan was given to Yang, the report said.
But, just before the police raid, the patient backed out of the operation once he saw the poor hygiene at the clinic, it said. Yang had an enema in preparation for the surgery but his kidney had not been removed because the recipient had left.
The report said the Dezhou hospital released a statement on Thursday identifying the trio as Li Fangjun, Zhang Xiaowen and Shi Cuiling . The hospital said they were staff members on National Day leave at the time of the raid. It said it co-operated with police after officers provided evidence of the illegal operation.
The mainland bans organ transplants from live donors, but makes exemptions for spouses, blood relatives and adopted family members.
There have been countless stories about illegal organ transplants in recent years, indicating the presence of a large underground network profiting from the mainland's demand for donor organs. Early this year, a heavily indebted man from Hunan province had one of his kidneys removed after agreeing to sell it to an illegal organ dealer. The man had changed his mind about the deal but was still forced to undergo surgery, according to Xinhua.
In June, a 17-year-old boy from Anhui sold one of his kidneys through an underground dealer and used the money to buy an iPad, Xinhua reported.
To ease some of the demand for organs, the mainland launched a pilot programme last year to allow people to donate their organs voluntarily after death.
Number of patients on mainland's organ waiting list, versus about 10,000 registered donors, less than 1pc of the demand, Xinhua says