Aug 19, 2014 05:02 PM

Just 1 in 30 Patients Gets an Organ Needed for Transplant Every Year

(Beijing) – Only about one in 30 people who needs an organ transplant is able to get one every year in China, a health official said at a forum in the capital on August 17, prompting an expert to say more needs to be done to support voluntary donations.

Wang Yu, an official with the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said that every year 300,000 Chinese patients need a new organ and only about 10,000 can get it because supply is short.

The State Council, the country's cabinet, issued a directive in 2007 prohibiting the harvesting of organs against a person's will. From the time that directive was issued to August 14, 2,107 people have donated 5,787 organs when they died, said Huang Jiefu, director of the National Organ Transplantation Committee under the health commission.

The southern province of Guangdong led with 449 people, he said.

The figure for Beijing was 37 and that for Shanghai 38. "It is too bad that they did so poorly," Huang said of the two cities.

The cabinet's directive marked the first time the central government made it clear that organ donations had to be voluntary, a norm in developed countries.

In 2005, Huang became one of the first health experts to say that most organs needed for transplants in China were taken from executed prisoners, some apparently against their will and without the consent of their families. He has since argued that voluntary donations must meet the bulk of the country's need.

The State Council's directive and ensuing efforts to establish a system for taking and distributing donated organs have alleviated the problem some, but there is still a long way to go, he said.

The China Organ Donation Administrative Center had 26,746 registered donors as of August 11, up from 34 in 2010, the year it was established, said Hao Lingna, vice president of the Red Cross Society of China.

The Red Cross Society of China runs the center, which collects information on donors and facilitates matches with patients.

The increase has exceeded expectations, but was nowhere near meeting the demand of a population of 1.3 billion people, she said. Part of the shortfall is still made up by executed prisoners, she said.

The government says organs are only taken from prisoners with their permission.

Huang said that at least 100 million voluntary donors are needed for that to change. He said the argument that Chinese culture deters organ donations because it values a body being buried whole might have been true in the past, but not anymore.

"The bureaucratic system rather than traditional culture has been hampering organ donations the most," he said.

The country urgently needed to support voluntary organ donation with a law, he said.

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