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Donated organs to get second life in Wuhan
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Organs from the deceased will soon be used for much-needed transplants in Wuhan, Hubei Province.

Except for corneas, after-death donations are only allowed for medical research and education in the country at present.

A pilot project will start in January in Wuhan under the auspices of the Red Cross.

The local legislature is expected to approve a law to allow organ transplant after death the next month, the first such regulation in the country.

Before then, an efficient system needs to be built as the organs need to be transplanted within 12 hours after death. Only six hours is required for the cornea.

Currently about 1 million people in China need organ transplants each year while only 1 percent receive one, official statistics show.

"We have to educate the public to donate their bodies for free through legal channels," an official of the Beijing Red Cross Association, surnamed Guo, told China Daily yesterday.

"It is illegal to sell or buy human organs for individuals or hospitals in China, only the China Red Cross deals with after-death body donations," she said.

However, except for their corneas, Beijing donors have no legal channel to donate their bodies for organ transplant, she said.

Currently, the Red Cross only deals with after-death body donations, which are used mainly for medical research and education.

As of 2007, there were 877 registration centers and 81 receiving units under the Red Cross for body donations in 55 cities across the country.

Gui Shunli, the secretary-general of the Red Cross Association in Wuhan, said that the shortage of organs has been a tough problem for them, even just for medical research and education.

"In Wuhan, about eight to 15 students in one medical institution share one body for anatomical study experiments, and that means they need at least 300 bodies every year," he said.

"But we can only provide them with around 100 bodies by legal channels," he said.

If the pilot project is successful, the system will be introduced nationwide.

The country launched a national organ donation system last month in a bid to encourage more people become organ donors.

The system, operated mainly by the Red Cross Society of China with assistance from the Ministry of Health, will begin as pilot projects in 10 provinces and cities.

Under the system, the Red Cross is responsible for encouraging post-death organ donations among the public, receiving donor registrations, keeping a database, starting a fund to provide financial assistance for the needy, and overseeing the allocation of donated organs.

(China Daily September 15, 2009)

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