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Expats donate in China

2014-10-08 16:55 Global Times Web Editor: Qian Ruisha

Marc Snyder, male, 50-years-old, born and raised in San Francisco, the US, has decided to donate his organs to China after his death.

After learning from the news that foreigners could donate organs in China in April this year, Snyder immediately contacted China Organ Donation Administrative Center (CODAC), and registered to become an organ donor. "My cousin Craig is alive because he had received a kidney transplant in Los Angeles 2 years ago, so I know how important this is to give my organs to people in need," he said.

"I have been married to my beautiful Chinese wife for 37 years, my 15- year-son is really good at kung fu and piano because of his teachers in China, so I want to do something for the people here," said Snyder. "Imagining that my life would continue in another person's body makes me feel great about myself," he added.

"Since April this year, China officially allows foreigners to donate organs in China," said Gao Xinpu, deputy director of the medical affair department of CODAC. Over the past six months, more than 10 foreigners have signed up to be organ donors.

In the past, there was a situation where a male foreigner offered to donate his organs to the center in the last several hours of his life, and the center was willing to accept the donation, Gao recalled. "This made us realize that there are some foreigners who want to become organ donors in China," said Gao. However, in the end his family members objected to the donation.

Since 2010 when the national organ donation officially started, 290,000 people have registered to become donors, yet this number is not nearly enough to meet the demands for organ transfers. "Every year there are only around 10,000 patients who receive organ donations, but there are over 300,000 people on the waiting list," said Gao.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission issued a regulation in 2007 prohibiting the hospitals to perform organ transplantations for foreigners with travel visas. But for those expatriates who have lived in China for a sustained period and need to receive an organ transfer, they can file an application to the provincial health department of their hospital and get the permission from the national health department.

But as of press date, there is no record of how many foreigners have been approved by the National Health and Family Planning Commission for organ transplantations.

Gao said that besides the shortage of organ donors in China, another reason behind this regulation is that the World Health Organization requires that organ donations must first satisfy the needs of a nation's citizens.

In addition, it aims to stop the situation where some foreigners would specifically come to China for transplantations, because they would enjoy priority in receiving transplantations if they pay more money, according to a Southern Weekend report in April 2007. The same report said that in 2004, 53 percent of the patients that received liver transplantation in Tianjin No.1 Central Hospital were foreigners.

China's volunteer organ donation programs started relatively late in comparison to Western countries, and the lack of organ donations is the main barrier to the development of organ transplantations within China, according to Gao.

Gao is optimistic about what the foreigners will bring to the Chinese organ donation situation. "Foreigners have a more open attitude towards organ donations. I believe more foreigners in China will choose to donate in the future," he said.

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