Wednesday, November 14, 2012

China - China To Reduce Reliance On Death-Row Inmates For Organs

China is taking a relook at its human organ transplant policies, reports the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.

AsianScientist (Nov. 13, 2012) – China is taking a relook at its human organ transplant policies, reports the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.

Haibo Wang, Director of the China Organ Transplant Response System Research Center of the Ministry of Health, said in a recent interview with the Bulletin that the new legislation will allow organ transplant and donation in China to become more transparent.

It will also move away from the 2007 human organ transplant regulation passed by the State Council of China which relies heavily on organs from executed prisoners.

“While we cannot deny the executed prisoner’s right to donate organs, an organ transplantation system relying on death-row prisoners’ organs is not ethical or sustainable,” said Wang.

“Now there is consensus among China’s transplant community that the new system will relinquish the reliance on organs from executed convicts. The implementation of the new national system will start early next year at the latest. This will also mark the start of phasing out the old practice,” he explained.

The new legislation to be adopted early next year was based on the results of a two-year pilot program for national organ donation, said Wang.

Unlike other countries, ‘brain death’ is not a legal criterion to pronounce a person dead in China. Lack of brain death legislation can put medical professionals engaged in organ transplantation at legal risk, he explained.

“Brain death, as defined in law, is used to determine death in many countries and is often taken as the basis for the surgical removal of organs for transplant. In China we do not have such legislation and that makes it difficult – but not impossible – for us to do organ donation after death,” said Wang.

But even if brain death legislation were to be passed in China, Chinese people still prefer to donate their organs after circulatory death (heat has stopped beating) and not neurological death (brain death), said Wang.

“Even if we had brain death legislation, some people would still say ‘I will only donate my organs once my heart has stopped’. This is not unique to Chinese society but exists in other countries to a different extent,” he said.

Only nine percent of organ donations are on the basis of brain death, while the rest were based on brain death with circulatory death or just on circulatory death, Wang revealed.

“This is the reality, but once we make progress with the new organ donation system, this will shift the cultural and societal norm regarding death,” he said.

A national organ computer system – the China Organ Transplant System (COTRS) developed by researchers at the University of Hong Kong – will allocates organs according to national policy, said Wang.

In addition, the Red Cross Society of China has been commissioned by the Ministry of Health to implement the new organ donation system on a national scale and act as a watchdog.

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