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March 8, 2012

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Student who twice backed out of cell donation divides opinion

A SHANGHAI student who registered as a stem cell donor but then twice backed out of donating at the last moment has found herself at the center of public debate.

The would-be recipient, a leukemia patient in neighboring Jiangsu Province, had already received medication to stop blood-forming functions in preparation for the transplant when the intended donor pulled out.

It was said that the would-be donor, who has not been named, had faced pressure from her family not to go ahead with the procedure.

The incident has stirred up discussion online, with some web users accusing the student of putting the patient's life in danger through her actions.

Some argued that donors should be legally prevented from backing out once the intended recipient has been given preparatory medication.

However, local medical officials said that donations should be based on freewill and that a donor must be allowed to change his or her mind.

The 23-year-old leukemia patient, Jiang Jing, is being treated in a hospital in Suzhou. As an emergency solution, a partial match was found yesterday using a sample from the Shanghai Stem Cell Blood Bank and cells from Jiang's mother. The success rate is likely to be around 60 percent, local doctors told Shanghai Daily.

Jiang was diagnosed with leukemia last April and a full match was found with the Shanghai college student who had registered as a donor with the Red Cross in the city.

The transplant had been scheduled for Tuesday and the patient had been receiving medication since late last month to stop her body forming blood cells.

But last Thursday, the donor said she did not want to proceed.

Red Cross volunteers persuaded her to change her mind and she was hospitalized to receive preparatory medication. However, on Monday she backed out again.

The decision sent Jiang and her family into despair, with her boyfriend voicing his feelings on his microblog.

"So sorry that the donor changed her mind again. You raised the hope of life for us, then destroyed it, repeatedly. No hatred, only deepest pain from the heart," he wrote.

While many web users criticized the college student, a Shanghai Red Cross official has asked the public to show understanding.

"Her life has also been greatly disturbed by the incident and she's also now under great stress," said the official, surnamed Jiang.

"She is young and we should not burden her with any more blame."

And a local health insider, who asked not to be named, dismissed calls for a law preventing donors backing out at the last minute. The insider said people must have the right to change their mind, and that a law insisting the proceed would only drive away potential donors.


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