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

China issued a Provisional Regulation on the Administration of Clinical Applications of Human Transplant Techniques, the first of its kind in China, in April to ensure the quality and safety of medical services.

Three of the provisions are that only qualified hospitals may do organ transplants, that organ trading is strictly forbidden, and that every operation must be approved in advance by a hospital ethics committee.

The committee, which involved medical experts and legal experts, will check items such as whether an organ is voluntarily donated and whether the transplant is actually necessary.

One case cited was that of actor Fu Biao, who had two liver transplants as part of his cancer treatment but died anyway last year.

Doctors later said his second transplant actually was unnecessary and it was a waste of a donated organ.

A declaration was issued at Tuesday's forum, indicating that Chinese medical practitioners would follow requirements of "strict regulation and assessment of medical institutions and practitioners for organ transplantation."

"We aim to ensure that human organ transplantation in China is healthily, systematically and legally developed and protects the rights of donors of human organs and patients," Huang said.

Chinese practitioners who are involved also must affirm that they will not take part in any human organ trading or any related activities, such as transport an organ out of China.

"Chinese people, including those in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, are given the first priority in receiving human organ transplantation services in China," said Huang, though overseas people may receive organs under specific application procedures that conform to World Health Organization rules.

To enhance the development of an organ donation system, China is also working on building an information-sharing network on organ donation and distribution, Huang said.

"It aims at, on the one hand, raising more public awareness to donate organs and, on the other hand, improving efficiency and fairness of organ distribution," he said.

The network will register and keep track of all human organ donations and collect information on patients who need transplants across the nation, Huang said.

"The network will also include information from Hong Kong and Macao," he said, claiming that it is a major step for China to regulate the transplant market, which critics say has spurred illegal trading of organs.

Because of the lack of an information network and a comprehensive administrative institution, it is the medical institution that currently manages organ donation, distribution and the transplant operations.

"It will lead to an unfair and unhealthy performance in terms of organ donation and distribution," Huang said.

And since fees are charged for transplants, a number of patients who have financial problems cannot afford the operations.

"Most patients who are in urgent need of organ transplants actually do not receive the operations because of an unbalanced distribution system," Huang said.

As a result, he also called for the establishment of an agency to co-ordinate the management of organ transplants nationwide.

"Since the institute, together with the information-sharing network, deals with donation and distribution, it will, to a large degree, ensure openness and fairness in organ transplants," Huang said.

Zheng Shusen, an official from the Committee on Clinical Application of Human Organ Transplantation of the Ministry of Health said: "Establishment of the information-sharing network is of great importance to better regulate organ transplants in China."

Zheng has been at Queen Mary Hospital in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for two years, researching liver transplants that have been done there since the early 1990s.

He himself has been involved in more than 500 liver transplants.

Zheng said: "Hong Kong has developed an information-sharing network on human organ transplants, which has helped increase the number of donors and better provides organs for patients."


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