East China experiments with voluntary organ donation

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, August 30, 2010
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Zhu Lin, a 20-year-old college student, signed her name on a special registration form which said she would agree to donate her organs after death.

"After we die, we can't bring anything with us, but our bodies may save the lives of others," said Zhu.

Zhu Lin said she was proud to become a pioneer in the pilot project, which was recently launched in three cities in the eastern province of Zhejiang, to legalize voluntary donation of organs from the deceased.

People in Hangzhou, Ningbo, and Wenzhou can now sign up, on their own volition, to donate their organs upon death. The Red Cross Society of China, the main sponsor and organizer, would supervise the entire process from donation to distribution.

Donor organs can come from any person who is not infected with AIDS or other serious contagious diseases. The brain dead are also recognized as a legal source of donor organs, according to the published rules.

Further, spouses and lineal relatives of the deceased can also sign up for their deceased family members, said the rule.

The pilot project in Zhejiang was the latest move in a national campaign aimed at alleviating the serious shortage of donor organs and to end the confusing state of organ donations in China.

China has become the second largest country in terms of organ donations, just after the United States, said Yang Jing, head of the provincial department of health of Zhejiang.

But the lack of legal recognition and regulating system has resulted in a severe scarcity of legal donor organs.

According to data from the Ministry of Health, among the 1.5 million Chinese patients in need of donor organs every year, only 10,000, or 0.67 percent, succeed in getting one.

"Many patients died in painful but futile waiting," said Zheng Shusheng, a leading expert on liver transplant.

"My hospital right now has 50 patients desperately waiting for available livers," said Zheng.

China's State Council passed a regulation on organ transplants in 2007 requiring legal donors to be blood relatives, spouses, or those who felt "emotionally connected" to the recipient.

But the law left a blank on the question of organ donations from the deceased, creating a legal plight for voluntary donors. According to the Red Cross, over 67,800 people came to register for organ donations by June 2009, but the lack of legal recognition prohibited doctors from transplanting organs taken from them.

In the meantime, illegal middlemen were actively faking documents proclaiming the organ sellers, usually those in need of money, to be "emotionally connected" to the recipients.

Health experts hope that the new system, now being tested, can enlarge the pool of donor organs and reduce the need for patients to receive organs from illegal sources.

"Every year, if one in ten of those who die in traffic accidents or from brain tumors agree to donate their organs, the current need will be satisfied," said Huang Jiefu, vice minister of China's Ministry of Health.

"With more voluntary donations available to patients, the illegal transaction will also subside," said Huang.

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