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

Huang listed four reasons behind the shortfall of organ donations.

"Social custom is one of the big reasons," he said, adding that many Chinese are unwilling to donate organs because of traditional rituals and beliefs. Furthermore, public education about donations is lacking.

Another reason is the lack of a legal infrastructure.

"Some people who are willing to donate organs do not know how to do it because of the absence of laws on organ transplants," Huang said.

In particular, China has no laws on "brain death," which has led to unhealthy organs' being available for patients who urgently need organ transplants, according to Huang.

China has not adopted the concept of brain death yet but still uses the traditional concept of cardiac death. The problem is that waiting for the heart to stop to declare someone dead also means blood is not flowing through the organs, making them unfit to be used for transplants.

More than 189 members of the United Nations practise the concept of brain death.

"The law on brain death has a close relationship with organ transplant as it will push development of organ transplant market," Huang said.

Another factor in organ donation depends on the goodwill of individuals and families to provide access to the dead.

"Apart from a small portion of traffic victims, most of the organs from cadavers are from executed prisoners," Huang said.

"The relevant government authorities strongly require the informed consent from the prisoners or their families for the donation of organs."

Mao Qun'an, spokesman of the Ministry of Health, criticized what he called irresponsible media reports that said China had randomly taken organs from executed criminals for transplant.

Regulations require that organs from executed criminals be taken only when they signed a consent form, or their relatives agreed, to donate the organs, Mao said.

He conceded, though, that improper human organ transplants have taken place in China because of poor government supervision.

For example, some wealthier people, including foreign patients, can get organ transplant earlier and more easily than others only because they have more money.

"However, some overseas media cook up stories that China randomly transplant organs from executed criminals, which is a malicious slander against the Chinese judiciary system and deceives the people on purpose," he said.

Law for clarity

The Organ Transplant Act should clarify matters considerably, Huang said.

"The text of the Organ Transplant Act has been finalized, and it is waiting for approval by the National People's Congress," he said.

In addition, Huang said that bad procedures by some medical institutes and doctors have also contributed to the shortfall of organs.


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