U of M Grants Honorary Doctorate to China's Health Minister
On Monday, the University of Minnesota granted one of its highest honors to one of China's most important ministers. Dr. Chen Zhu, China's Minister of Health was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science for his work in leukemia research and health care reform.
Chen was recognized for groundbreaking work as a hematologist. According to the University his work turned acute promyelocytic leukemia from a "once fatal form of cancer into a highly curable disease."
The U of M also recognized Chen as a leader in reforming China's health care system, noting his efforts in providing universal coverage of basic health insurance and expanding access to public health services.
However, Dr. Kirk Allison, Director of the University's Program in Human Rights and Health is asking the University to reconsider. He expressed his concerns in this letter, which was signed by 21 other physicians and academics.
"Providing and honorary doctorate in this case actually provides too much honor to a context in which there are victims that are paying a very high price," Allison said.
Allison's concern is that China's transplant system uses organs of those who have been executed.
"The system has been primarily based and primarily dependent on execution," Allison said.
"One could be sentenced to death for one of 55 crimes, and this could be like embezzlement for example," Allison said.
More than a million people are waiting for organs in China.
Dr. Jack Lake, Executive Medical Director for Solid Organ Transplantation at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, says China's reforms deserve praise.
"I think, what they've managed to do in 5 years is laudatory, it's courageous, it has required great political will," Lake said.
Earlier this year, China announced it would try to get more citizens to donate. Within five years, the country's health leaders are hoping to abolish the use of executed prisoners as a source of organs.
"With the social, economic progress of our country, gradually, we have to stop that resource," said Minister Chen.