Trial to encourage transplant donors

Updated: 2012-08-06 08:05

By Wang Qingyun in Beijing and Li Wenfang in Guangzhou (China Daily)

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Trial to encourage transplant donors

A dying 12-year-old boy in Guangzhou recently donated his organs to help others, a sign of the country's progress in setting up a transparent and effective system of organ donation, experts said.

Identified only as Luo, the boy died on July 23 in the city's Nanfang Hospital, where he was receiving treatment for a malignant brain tumor.

"From later that day to 8 the next morning, the hospital staff conducted operations to transplant his liver, kidneys and cornea into four patients, who are all now recovering very well," said Wang Yong, organ donation coordinator at the hospital.

The parents said the boy had said he wanted to donate his organs.

"When his parents told the hospital that they would like to donate his organs, we told them about organ donation policies, explaining, for instance, that money is not paid for organs," Wang said. "His mother's words impressed me. She said that she never thought about anything else. She just wanted her child to live on this way."

Luo is the 91st person to donate organs in Guangdong province since the province began taking part in a trial of a national organ donation system in April 2010, said Li Jindong, deputy director of the organ donation office of the Guangdong branch of the Red Cross Society of China.

"Since the start of the program, there have been 15 donations in 2010," Li said. "The number was 31 in 2011, and Guangdong had the most organ donations in the program for two consecutive years. There have been 45 donations this year so far."

To bring the supply of organs closer to meet the demand for them, the RCSC and the Ministry of Health started a trial donation program in 10 provinces and municipalities in March 2010 and later expanded it to include 16 places.

In the long run, the system is meant to establish a national system through which information on organ donations can be shared and donated organs can be allocated in a transparent manner.

Data from the RCSC show the system helped to arrange 343 donations from March 2010 to July 15, leading to transplants of 924 large organs such as hearts, livers, kidneys and lungs.

A staff worker at the organization, who declined to be identified, said Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces and Tianjin municipality had the largest number of donations among the 16 places in the system by June 30.

Guangdong, Zhejiang and Tianjin have also seen increases in donations in the past three years, according to their respective branches of the RCSC.

Cao Yanfang, who works for the organ donation office of the Zhejiang branch, said 44 people in Zhejiang have donated their organs since the start of the system.

"The province began the program in August 2010," Cao said. "We had two cases of donations from August to December that year. In 2011, we had 13 cases. This year we have had 29 cases so far."

Tianjin was among the first places to adopt the system, starting on March 2, 2010. An employee with the municipality's Red Cross, who declined to be named, said six donations took place there from March to December 2010. In 2011, the number increased to 11, and 13 donations took place in Tianjin in the first half of this year.

"By now, the number of donations this year has surpassed the entire number for last year," he said.

He said Tianjin worked with a television station last year to broadcast an advertisement encouraging organ donations. It also posted ads in subway stations and at hospitals.

"Through this work, the public now has a much better attitude toward organ donations," he said. "We find they are less hostile toward organ donations, and we have a better chance of obtaining permission to conduct organ donations from potential donors' families.

"Although we haven't yet achieved an ideal state of affairs, the past two years have made things better," he said.

Zhai Xiaomei, a professor at Peking Union Medical College's bioethics center, praised the work, saying: "Organ donation is noble and altruistic. We should encourage more people to accept it through advocacy."

Zhai said the trial program is progressing well and believed that the country will have a fair and transparent national system for organ donations in the near future.

Even so, the more than 300 donations that have taken place since the start of the system are still far from adequate to meet the demand for organs, Zhai said.

"Although members of the program have worked really hard and the number of donations is increasing in places such as Guangdong, Zhejiang and Tianjin, the figure is still too small compared with the number of people who are on the waiting list," she added. "A large number of donations is needed to support a donation system."

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(China Daily 08/06/2012 page3)