Chinese blood agents jailed over cash-for-transfusions scam
Underground trade targeted patients whose surgery had been delayed because of shortages in public blood banks
Eight “blood agents” have been sentenced to up to 18 months in jail by a court in Nanning, Guangxi, the local authorities announced on Sunday.
The men and women were found guilty of profiting from the underground blood trade, according to the report posted on social media platform Weibo.
They distributed cards with phone numbers in the city’s hospitals and targeted patients on waiting lists for various types of surgery that required a blood transfusion.
Severe shortages in government blood banks meant the operations could not proceed.
In desperation, many patients or their families were willing to pay the “agents” a fee of up to 1,000 yuan (US$152) per litre of blood to find a donor with a suitable blood type and a willingness to sell.
The blood agents kept half of the money.
One of them made nearly 250,000 yuan in a short time, according to city prosecutors.
The seller had to visit a government blood station and declare to an official that he or she was donating blood as a friend or relative of the buyer.
The official would then issue a certificate allowing the buyer to withdraw a similar amount of blood from the blood bank for the surgery.
The scam was an attempt to get around a law that made it mandatory that all blood for hospital use come from volunteers.
The Chinese authorities have banned blood trading in any form due to concerns that some people in need of money will sell blood beyond a safe amount or conceal their medical history.
A blood trader can be jailed for up to five years under mainland law.
The blood shortage has become a nationwide problem.
Health authorities in the capital said last month that inadequate blood supplies had affected routine operations in some public hospitals, according to Beijing Daily.