China / Hot Issues

Migrant worker's hard choice to donate organs

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-04-14 13:58

HANGZHOU - Jiang Shuangmei, a migrant worker, wept in the corner of a hospital in the city of Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province.

Her husband, Yang Jianjun, 27, was pronounced brain dead 10 days after a traffic accident.

The fact that her child is still so young aggravated her grief. She was also stressing over the painful decision of whether or not to donate her husband's organs to those in need.

Should she choose to donate, it challenges the traditional Chinese belief that keeping the corpse intact is a minimum requirement for respecting the deceased, a notion more deeply rooted in rural areas.

After a family meeting, Jiang and her mother-in-law made the decision to donate all the useable organs, either for organ transplants or for medical studies.

However, the decision had a condition. All family members who knew about the donation should not say anything when they return to their hometown, where local customs are against the idea of organ donation.

Yang's kidneys were immediately transplanted to two patients suffering uremia at the First Hospital of Zhejiang Province, which is one of the largest and most advanced liver and kidney transplant centers in the world.

Yang is 28th organ donator in Zhejiang Province this year and the 315th donator since 2010, when China launched a pilot program for organ donation.

China lags far behind international levels in regards to quantity of organ donations, said Gao Xiang, deputy director of the Zhejiang Provincial Red Cross Society.

"The number of donor organs is very limited. Some institutes say the demand-supply rate is 50 to 1, while some others believe it is 30 to 1," Gao said.

But statistics from the Zhejiang Provincial Red Cross Society show it's gaining popularity.

People who died in traffic accidents used to account for 80 percent of the total amount of donations in the province and the percentage has dropped to 60 percent as people who died of heart attacks and some brain diseases have also become a stable source of organ donation.

There are also good trends in the donators' age structure, Gao said.

As the nation progresses, organ donation has become a more acceptable alternative with encouragement from the central government.

In 2014, 1,700 donors gave more than 5,000 organs, exceeding the total number of the previous five years.

Voluntary donation from Chinese citizens became the major source of transplant organs, accounting for 80 percent of all donated organs in 2014, an earlier report quoting Huang Jiefu, head of a national human organ donation and transplant committee, as saying.

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