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Five people, including a surgeon, have gone on trial in Central China in connection with the removal and sale of the kidney of a teenager, who used the money he received to buy an iPhone and iPad 2.
Judges heard on Thursday how Wang Shangkun, 18, has been left seriously ill after undergoing an illegal transplant operation in Chenzhou, Hunan province, last year.
The defendants, who are accused of intentional injury and illegal organ trading, face three to 10 years in prison. Four others who are suspected of playing a minor role in the incident face fines.
According to documents from Beihu district people's court, Wang Shangkun, who lives in Anhui province, made contact with the illegal agency online and agreed to a deal to sell his kidney.
The suspected mastermind, He Wei, said during the trial on Thursday that Wang, who was 17 at the time, had been "willing" to receive the surgery.
He, who prosecutors claim arranged kidney transplants to pay his debts, contacted Yin Shen and Tang Shimin, who in turn found Su Kaizong, who works at a military hospital in the city and had access to an operating room.
Song Zhongyu, a specialist urinary surgeon, was said to have been hired to perform the operation, which took place in April 2011.
The kidney was later sold to a man identified in the court indictment as Huang, from Gansu province, in exchange for 150,000 yuan ($23,500) and $10,000 in cash.
Wang received just 22,000 yuan, with the rest of the money divided by the gang, prosecutors said.
When he returned home, his mother noticed he was weak and soon learned what had happened. She then called police in Chenzhou.
"The case is complicated and involves a juvenile, so it's not suitable for us to disclose more details," Huang Wujiang, who works at the court, said on Thursday.
Wang, who is still in very poor health, was unable to attend the hearing. However, his mother, Ou Linchun, told court her son had not sold his kidney to buy Apple products.
"My son was tempted by the illegal organ traders and might have been afraid of getting caught with such a large amount of money, so he bought a cell phone and a tablet PC," she said.
The case is expected to last until Friday, when judges may announce a verdict.
Zhao Li, a criminal lawyer at Beijing King and Bond Law Firm, said organ transplants from living donors are only legal between relatives.
"Organ transplants by illegal groups are harmful to providers and receivers," he said. "The punishment for wrongdoers should be severe."
His comments were echoed by Zhai Xiaomei, a professor of bioethics at Peking Union Medical College.
Zhai said organ transplants are risky for healthy adults, let alone a young boy.
"Patients must be taken good care of and have enough nutrition after receiving organ transplant surgery, or else they will face great damage to their health," she said.
Not all doctors and hospitals have qualifications to perform organ transplant surgeries, she warned, which means the surgery will have a high risk for providers if it was performed by unqualified medical staff.
Sang Biao, a professor of psychology at East China Normal University, said some juveniles cannot resist the lure of material goods, although they can realize such surgery can be harmful.
"The young man might fail to tell his parents what he was going to undergo before the tragedy happened, and the adults didn't guide him on how to face material life in the right way," he said.
The Ministry of Public Security said on Saturday that 137 suspects were caught in the latest crackdown on human organ trafficking.
The investigation was conducted at the end of July by 18 provincial authorities, who rescued 127 potential organ suppliers, according to the ministry.
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Feng Zhiwei in Changsha contributed to this story.