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Organ donor numbers 'rising quickly'

2014-12-05 08:48 Shanghai Daily Web Editor: Qian Ruisha

China is to stop transplanting organs harvested from executed prisoners from the beginning of next year.

From January 1, organs will come only from live relatives or donations after death, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported yesterday, citing Huang Jiefu, director of the China Organ Donation Committee and a former vice health minister.

Huang made the remarks at a seminar in Kunming, capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province, on Wednesday.

In November 2012, Huang said that China would end its reliance on organs from executed prisoners within two years.

By the end of 2012, about 64 percent of transplanted organs in China were from executed prisoners. By August last year, the figure had dropped to under 54 percent, Huang said earlier.

China is extremely short of organ donors, due to the traditional belief in keeping the body whole after death and concerns over how they are allocated, Huang said.

About 300,000 patients a year are in "urgent need" of transplants in China, but only 10,000 patients receive the appropriate surgery.

China has the lowest organ donation rate in the world — 0.6 donors for every million citizens. By comparison, Spain has 37 for every million, Huang said.

To regulate organ donations and their use and help the nation reduce its dependence on executed prisoners, a national organ donation system run by the Red Cross Society of China was established in March 2010. A pilot scheme was in operation before it was adopted across the country in February 2013.

Provincial Red Cross branches are in charge of the operation of the system in their regions.

Details of donated organs and patients with organ failure are put into a database to ensure organs go to the patients in most need.

Dr Fan Jia, president of Shanghai's Zhongshan Hospital and a liver transplant expert, told Shanghai Daily yesterday: "Though it is a so-called national system, it is not shared by hospitals qualified for organ transplant in the whole nation.

"We have many patients coming from other provinces for transplant surgery in Shanghai with its better medical capabilities. As we have no access to organs donated in other provinces, some patients have to wait for a long time and even die during that period."

He said China should learn from the United States and its United Network for Organ Sharing, a national registration, distribution and patient ranking system, which has a database covering all hospitals, donors and patients in the country.

He said that ruling out organs from executed prisoners was an essential development but the national health authority had to improve the current organ donation and distribution network to ensure a proper organ supply for patients.

Huang told the seminar that 1,500 people had donated their organs this year as of Tuesday, more than the total number, or 1,448, from March 2010 to 2013.

Since the Red Cross donation system was launched, 2,948 people had donated 7,822 organs.

"Both registered donors and realized donations are rising quickly this year and we are seeing people's rising awareness," Huang said.

In Shanghai, about 3,800 citizens have registered to donate organs after their death, or 10 percent of the total across the country, and 54 have since died and their organs used.

"We will do more campaigns next year to educate the public to increase awareness of and participation in the organ donation system," said Lu Zongwei, a Red Cross official in the city.

Some Shanghai hospitals are still strongly dependant on organs from executed prisoners, Fan said.

That was because of the low donation rate and the system which mainly allowed donated organs to be used in the region where they were collected, Fan added.

About 40 organ transplant centers in Beijing and Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces have already stopped using organs from executed prisoners.

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