China / Society

Red Cross aims to boost rates of organ donation

By Shan Juan (China Daily) Updated: 2012-10-23 01:19

The Red Cross Society of China is recruiting for its upcoming national organ donation management center, which will facilitate donations and encourage life-saving benevolence.

Currently, about 1.5 million Chinese people need organ transplants each year on the mainland, but only 10,000 can have one due to a lack of organs, statistics from the Ministry of Health show.

"The new center under the Red Cross will work together with stakeholders like health authorities to run a nationwide organ donation system and help ease the long-time strain on organ donations for transplants," said Wang Ping, director of the relief and health department of the society.

According to Wang, the system is open to public organ donations after death. Those from executed prisoners, which China's organ transplants have relied on as a main source for donations, are not covered.

The center will be responsible for public advocacy, registration, procurement witnessing, donor recognition and possible humanitarian aid.

Four positions including deputy director of the center are now open for applications and the center will have a staff of 16, according to the information office of the society.

A written test is scheduled later this month and those making the shortlist will have interviews by mid November, said the society's website.

Final results are expected to be publicized late next month, it said.

The society and the Ministry of Health launched a trial organ donation system in selected regions on the mainland in 2010.

According to Vice-Minister of Health Huang Jiefu, the Red Cross, China's biggest humanitarian organization, is the most suitable to run a system that raises public organ donation awareness and facilitates the process.

"The public would be more likely to answer appeals from the Red Cross than from medics, given strained doctor-patient relationships," said Huang, an Australia-trained liver transplant surgeon.

During the past two years of the trial, the Red Cross and its local branches have encountered difficulties with staff shortages and financial strain in carrying out the work, said Wang Ping.

The process, including detecting and approaching potential donors and their families, informing them of the procedure and making arrangements, is not easy, said Wang Yuwei, an organ donation coordinator of the Red Cross of Liaoning province.

"We have to be careful talking about the matter as families are experiencing huge pain at the loss of their loved ones. Besides, the process involves huge contact work with government agencies like civil affairs and public security," he said.

Special units for organ donation will be set up gradually at local branches of the Red Cross to carry out the task, said Wang Ping.

To date, 19 branches at the provincial level have started the work, with Beijing the latest to join, he said.

"Many local branches are still facing great difficulty regarding the task, like poor public awareness, a shortage of professionals and funding, and a lack of a scientific working mechanism," he added.

To date, the trial system has seen more than 400 organ donations on the mainland, statistics from the Red Cross showed.

Earlier this month, Ministry of Health spokesman Deng Haihua said a national organ donation allocation system would be put into use to record, distribute and oversee organ donations to ensure fairness and transparency.

Wang Haibo, who oversees the system, said the fair allocation of donated organs was about allocation of lives.

"The system is also open to the Red Cross for supervision," he said.

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