In organ donations, charity begins with body

By Qiu Quanlin in Guangzhou and Zhang Feng in Beijing (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-11-16 06:36

Getting people to part with their organs, even after death, is no small thing in China.

But Chen Shuying wants people to think it's no big deal.

The 28-year-old was recently named director of the Voluntary Service Group of Human Organ Donation, the first such organization to be set up in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province. The group opened its doors in early October.

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"Difficulty and hope co-exist here," Chen said. "The practice of donating human organs is still in its infancy in China."

Chen, whom some people describe as China's first professional advocate of organ donation, has persuaded 96 people to donate their corneas since 2003. As a result, 212 patients have regained their vision. One donated cornea can benefit more than one recipient.

"But few people are willing to donate corneas or any other organ," Chen said.

The Ministry of Health said that the 2,500 cornea transplants that are carried out every year in China fall far short of the demand. About 2 million patients are currently awaiting corneas for transplant, the ministry said.

"There is clearly a large shortfall in cornea donations," Chen said. "If more volunteers get involved in persuading people to donate, I believe we can overcome such difficulties."

The shortage of all donations has hindered the development of a national organ transplant system.

Ministry of Health statistics indicate that China performed 34,726 organ transplants from 2000 to 2004, and that at the end of 2004, 599 medical institutions did liver, kidney, heart and lung transplants.

"There are about 1.5 million people in China who need transplants each year, but only around 10,000 operations can be carried out," Vice-Minister of Health Huang Jiefu said.

Huang spoke at the National Summit of Clinical Application and Management of Human Organ Transplantation, which took place on Tuesday in Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong Province.

All medical institutions that do organ transplants and medical practitioners sent representatives and doctors to the summit.

Even so, the 10,000 transplants China does annually rank it No 2 in the world behind the United States.

"Almost all organ transplants can be performed in China," Huang said. "However, the current big shortfall of organ donations can't meet the demand."


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