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Organ transplant system will save lives
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The health ministry is renewing its call to establish an organ donation system to save more patients from dying while they wait for transplants.

An estimated two million Chinese need organ transplants each year, but only 20,000 operations are performed because of a severe shortage of matching donations.

However, people willing to help others by donating organs after death have found there is no mechanism to do so.

"Once the system is in place, willing donors can help save more lives," vice-minister Huang Jiefu said on Wednesday.

Under the program, which is still in development, the Red Cross Society of China will be in charge of encouraging the general public to donate organs and tissues after death to save more people in dire need of transplants, according to its executive director Jiang Yiman.

"Willing donors will be registered nationwide," she said. "It will serve as a bridge to link possible donors and recipients."

China has not previously had such an organization to handle and manage human organ donations, making it hard to allocate donated organs in a proper and timely fashion.

"A waiting list of patients will be made public to secure transparent and fair practice in terms of organ allocation and procurement," Jiang said.

"It will help optimize the allocation and use of donated organs, and facilitate our work," said Chen Tongqing, a transplant surgeon at the First People's Hospital of Foshan, Guangdong province.

"We expect the system to be finished soon. It will benefit patients a lot," she noted.

The Red Cross started to plan the system with assistance from the health ministry in 2007.

"We are now busy building up the team for this and training people," Jiang explained.

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 centres and 81 receiving units under the Red Cross for body donation in 55 cities across the country.

"Nearly 100,000 people who volunteered to donate their bodies after death have been registered so far," said a staff member surnamed Liu in the legal affairs department of the China Red Cross Society.

(China Daily June 5, 2009)

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