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Voluntary organ donation surges

2015-03-13 08:50 Xinhua Web Editor: Gu Liping

Voluntary organ donation is surging in China after the country banned harvesting of organs from executed prisoners, an expert has said.

"Nearly 1,000 body parts were donated by 381 citizens in the first two months of this year, which is double the number donated during the same period in 2014," said Huang Jiefu, head of a national human organ donation and transplant committee, at a press conference Wednesday on the sidelines of the annual parliamentary session in Beijing.[Special coverage]

China banned harvesting organs from prisoners at the start of the year, and has only developed a regulated system of voluntary organ donation in recent years.

Taking organs from prisoners "was an option China took reluctantly as it did not have a voluntary donation system before 2009," Huang said, noting that the practice had compromised China's human rights credentials and left it open to criticism from the international community.

However, China has been looking for ways to improve its organ donation system since the start of its reform and opening-up period. The southern city of Shenzhen introduced the country's first regulations on donation of transplanted organs in 2003.

The first national regulations on this subject were implemented in 2007, banning trading in organs.

An organ donation system planned by the Ministry of Health and the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) entered trial operation in select areas in 2010, and it was expanded to the whole country in 2014. Branches of the Organ Procurement Organization (OPO) and the China Organ Transplant Response System (COTRS) have now been set up in hospitals across the country.

There were 55 successful cases of organ donation in east China's Jiangsu Province last year, exceeding the combined number in the previous three years.

Southwest China's Yunnan Province has also seen positive progress. Li Li, president of Kunming No. 1 People's Hospital in the provincial capital, said the hospital has conducted 44 organ transplants since 2010 and five in the past two months alone.

Li explained that the hospital has a team dedicated to identifying appropriate donors and that they only start trying to persuade patients to donate when it is confirmed that they have no chance of living. After getting families' consent, they input donation information into the COTRS, which takes minutes to identify patients in need of the organs.

In November, the organs of Liu Wenping, a 46-year-old teacher, were donated to five people after she died of a brain hemorrhage. Her daughter said, "It was her wish to continue her life in another way."

In another case, a 15-month-old boy nicknamed Hanhan was left in a vegetative state after a traffic accident in February. His parents decided to donate his cornea, liver, kidney and cardiac valves, and a little girl from Chongqing Municipality gained a second life as a result.

The Kunming city government is considering erecting a permanent monument with donors' names carved on it in a local cemetery.

According to the RCSC department in charge of organ donation, 29 provincial organizations have been set up nationwide with 35,290 registered voluntary donors. The number of successful cases of organ donation reached 3,188 by March 1, saving 8,866 patients with organ failure.

The department said last year alone China had nearly 1,700 donation cases and completed 5,000 organ transplants.

Research reveals that many Chinese are willing to donate organs but are scared off by a perceived lack of transparency in the donation process. However, as the laws and the overall system for donation improve, Chinese are becoming more confident about donating organs, Li said.

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