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June 21, 2011

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Blind baby cornea hopes dashed

A CANCER patient was yesterday disappointed to learn that the donation of his cornea to a four-month-old girl with congenital blindness would not help the baby gain some sight.

He Xinde, aged 68, who has lymphoma, heard of the child's plight on a local radio program on Sunday, when her mother called asking for a donor.

He contacted the radio station, offering to make the donation after his death.

But although an examination confirmed that because of the child's poor eye development a transplant would not help her, He is still determined to donate his cornea to someone else.

"I will still make the donation after my death," said He, who registered at Shanghai Red Cross last year as a donor.

He's wish is likely to be granted as new guidance on eye bank management issued by the Ministry of Health has clarified diseases ineligible for cornea donation and transplant.

It doesn't ban all tumors, though rules out donations from people with certain types of leukemia and lymphoma.

He's cancer is a type of chronic lymphoma which does not appear to be banned.

Serious infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis, are also excluded.

This is the first guidance clearly listing who can donate corneas.

Previously, cancer patients were usually rejected due to fears about cancer spreading and because of damage to the cornea after long-term chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Cornea donations have long been in short supply in Shanghai. According to Shanghai Red Cross, only 4,077 people have registered to donate their cornea since 1982, with only 52 transplants carried out.

Dr Zhang Chaoran from the eye bank at Shanghai Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital, a designated eye bank of Shanghai Red Cross, welcomed the guidance and said it could better regulate clinical practice.

"In the past, we mostly followed textbooks and our experiences and consulted rules on organ donation and transplant. But actually, the cornea is a tissue not an organ," she said.

Zhang said problems with the poor quality of cornea from elderly donors' age, receiving corneas too late and family disagreement reduced numbers of transplants.

She called on the authorities to further streamline the procedure and encourage the public to donate.


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