China expands human organ donation pilot
Updated: 2013-01-27 16:13
NANCHANG -- Two more Chinese localities are to pilot a human organ donation regulation that allows relatives of a deceased person to decide whether to donate their organs.
The Human Body Donation Regulation was enacted by local legislatures in east China's Jiangxi Province and north China's Tianjin Municipality at their annual sessions earlier this month.
"This is good news for more than 1.5 million Chinese patients waiting for organ donation and transplant to cure their diseases," said Dai Ying, secretary general of the Jiangxi Branch of the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC).
Statistics from the Ministry of Health showed that only around 10,000 of the patients can have organ transplants performed annually due to a lack of donors.
While, with the new regulation going into effect on March 1, the immediate relatives of a person can make a donation decision if the deceased has not stated before death whether or not his or her body can be donated. And if a person leaves a will to donate his or her body, none of relatives has the right to alter it.
Jiangxi and Tianjin were among 10 provinces and municipalities approved by the Ministry of Health in March 2010 to pilot the regulation. Also among the pioneers were Shanghai Municipality, Shandong and Hubei provinces.
The regulation is seen as a crucial attempt to raise public awareness of the importance of organ donation and curb rampant black market dealings, which Dai said could be more lucrative than drug trafficking.
The regulation is set to smooth out the legal channel to meet the demand for the organs, said Zeng Chuanmei, deputy director general of the provincial health department.
"It also clearly puts the RCSC in charge of the human organ donation procedure," he said.
He noted that the RCSC has a network of subsidiaries in cities and counties, a fact which can make it easier for organ donors to attend consultations over the regulation and donation registration. RAMPANT BLACK MARKET
In order to curb rampant human organ trafficking, China launched a crackdown in 18 provinces and cities last year, said Wang Mingmei, director of the Chinese Sociological Association.
During the campaign, police cracked 28 human organ trafficking rings, seizing 137 suspects and rescuing 127 people abducted for their organs
Early this month, in Jiangxi's Poyang County, four suspects were sentenced to between six months and four years in jail for luring dozens of people into selling their kidneys.
Another 10 suspects in Jingdezhen City will soon face trial for illegally removing 18 human kidneys through privately run medical institutions.
In the Poyang case, a kidney seller got a mere 30,000 yuan (4,800 U.S. dollars) to 50,000 yuan, while the trader charged a staggering 280,000 yuan or even more from the buyers.
In the Jingdezhen case, the organ agent, organ harvesting surgeons and even anesthetists involved in the surgery pocketed money from working for human organ trafficking kingpins. ENCOURAGING DONATIONS
The State Council, China's cabinet, issued regulations on voluntary organ donation in 2007. But China has struggled to popularize the practice, as traditional Chinese customs call for people to be buried or cremated with their organs intact.
It is no secret that organs taken from executed prisoners are an important source for organ transplants in Chinese hospitals.
This reliance, however, will end within two years, as the development of the organ donation system shines a light on the practice, said Vice Minister of Health Huang Jiefu in November last year.
The donation of a human body can help cure nearly 100 patients in need of organ and tissue transplants, said Fang Ya, vice president of the RCSC's Jiangxi branch.
"A pair of corneas alone can help six to eight patients with eye diseases recover," she said.
The Jiangxi branch foresees the regulation leading to an increase in the number of donors, according to Dai.
She admitted that the branch will have to face "service challenges" with more people coming to register for organ donations.
In preparation, it has started training volunteers to help with the organ donation procedures. So far, 221 people have taken such lessons.
In promoting public awareness around organ donation, the branch has built a garden-like memorial yard to honor organ donors at the Qingshan Cemetery in Nanchang, the provincial capital.
"On Tomb-sweeping Day last year, we held a mourning ceremony to promote their philanthropic deeds," Dai said.
She said the RCSC has planned other measures such as setting up a special fund to subsidize donors whose family are poverty-stricken.
In the next step, Dai said, the organization will coordinate with certain medical institutions to set up stations to receive human organ and tissue to complete the system building.
However, some members of the public may doubt the RCSC's capabilities here as it has come under fire after a series of mismanagement scandals.
Dai said the new regulation has placed supervising responsibility for the management of human organ donations with health departments.
"Anyone who violates the law in the transplanting process will face administrative and legal penalties," she said.
Wang Hua, an elderly resident of Honggutan New Area of Nanchang, said that he would not mind if his relatives decided to donate his body after he passes away, as long as the relevant departments keep the process transparent.
"Making a free donation after I die would be the the most meaningful thing to do for those who are alive," Wang said.