China has drafted its first regulation on human organ
transplants amid growing calls from national lawmakers for fast
legislation to help better regulate the sector and facilitate
Minister of Health Gao
Qiang said the regulation uses technical codes and criteria for
human organ transplants.
"It mainly aims to strengthen the regulation of organ
transplants from the perspective of medical science and services,"
he told China Daily on the sidelines of the ongoing annual
session of the National People's Congress (NPC).
The regulation, now open to advice and suggestions from medical
experts, will be submitted to the Legislative Affairs Office of the
State Council for final approval.
Sources said the regulation would ban human organ sales and
introduce, for the first time in China, a set of medical standards
on brain death.
Once enacted, the regulation is expected to help introduce more
discipline and order to the organ transplant sector.
The ministry's move, however, still falls short of the
expectation of national lawmakers who have been pushing for
legislation on organ transplants since 1986.
NPC deputy Chen Haixiao, a surgeon with Taizhou Hospital in east
Zhejiang Province, strongly complained about the lack of
legislative progress in regulating human organ transplants.
"I understand it is not easy to formulate a law and it will take
time," he told China Daily. "But the legislation on human
organ transplants and donations is too slow anyway."
At last year's NPC session, Chen and another 100 deputies put
forward three motions urging for legislation on organ donation.
In December last year, the NPC Standing Committee, which handles
the legislative work, replied that the time was still not right for
starting the legislation.
"We suggest related departments of the State Council actively
organize research about legislation on human organ transplants and
consider formulating the law when the time is right," it said at
But Chen warned that a legislation process that is too slow may
cause more problems especially as the human organ transplant sector
is poorly regulated in China. The lack of regulation has led to
excessive waste of medical resources as well as poor medical
practices in organ transplants, he said.
In China about 20 human organs are used in transplant operations
including kidneys and livers.
Statistics indicate that at least 2 million Chinese people need
an organ transplant each year but in fact only around to 20,000 are
conducted because of a shortage of donated organs.
The huge gap between supply and demand has prompted some people
to organize organ sales in China for large profits, Chen said.
Concept of brain death
The NPC deputy went on to say that China's failure to adopt the
concept of brain death has greatly hindered the development in
So far 189 member states of the United Nations accept the
concept of 'brain death' which is defined as the irreversible
loss of brain function.
But China continues with the traditional concept of cardiac
death which means a person is considered dead only when their
heartbeat and breathing stop. Cardiac death causes the loss of
blood in organs of a brain-dead person making them unsuitable
Chen, however, acknowledged that the Chinese people's ingrained
traditional concept of death and their religion does hinder their
acceptance of the concept of brain death and the practice of
Traditionally, the Chinese people hold that the body of the dead
should be kept intact.
Chen predicted that the concept of brain death and cardiac death
may co-exist in the country and allow the public to choose either
of them as the standard for determining death.
"As organ transplant and donation is both a medical and ethical
issue.We we need to raise public awareness about it," Chen said."In
that sense, the earlier we start the legislation, the better."
(China Daily March 13, 2006)