China extends organ donation trial

0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, March 7, 2011
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Almost one year into its trial run, China's first voluntary organ donation system has facilitated only 40-odd organ transplant surgeries in 11 pilot regions on the mainland, said Vice-Health Minister Huang Jiefu. Meanwhile, more than 100 volunteers have donated organs through the system.

When the system goes nationwide, and given rising volunteerism in China, more people will donate organs after death to help save those who would die without a transplant, Huang, also a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told China Daily on the sidelines of the ongoing "Two Sessions."

"The trial run by the Red Cross Society of China and the Ministry of Health will be extended by half a year in pilot areas. After assessment and revision, it's expected to go nationwide in two years," said Huang, also an Australia-trained liver transplant expert.

Given the practical situation and social conventions here, all practitioners should use cardiac death as a standard definition of death for donations, adding that donations after cardiac death fit best into China's current situation where the understanding of brain death among the public and even medical workers remains poor.

Organ transplant surgeons in China have long called for brain-death legislation, arguing brain-death donation could secure high-quality organ donations for transplants.

"A lack of brain-death legislation, which in truth is not necessarily related to organ donation and transplant, should not hamper the promotion of organ donation," Huang refuted.

Performed in a proper way, donations after cardiac death can also meet the demand of transplants, said Huang's latest academic article to be published soon by the Lancet, a world-leading medical journal.

When the public is capable of understanding concepts such as brain death, euthanasia and vegetative states, "they will be allowed to choose between the two criteria," he added.

China now has 163 hospitals nationwide authorized by the ministry to perform organ transplants.

"We'll add 10 new ones to the list soon who have to strictly adhere to the cardiac death standard," he said.

Currently, about 10,000 organ transplants are performed each year on the Chinese mainland. It is estimated that around 1.3 million people are waiting for a transplant, largely due to the shortage of donated organs.

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