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March 2, 2011

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Cornea donors' wishes not met

ONLY one in ten people who sign up to donate their corneas have their wishes fulfilled, officials said at the Shanghai Body Donation Day yesterday.

Resistance from family members and high technical requirements explain the poor figure, the event to commemorate previous donors and encourage new ones heard.

As a cornea donation for transplant requires the eyeball to be removed entirely, many donors' families strongly object, considering it disrespectful to the deceased.

Currently, the cornea is the only part of a donated body that can be used for transplants.

According to Shanghai Red Cross, the local authority in charge of body donations, about 1,500 people are registered to donate their entire bodies for research and teaching, their corneas for transplant, or for both categories.

The Red Cross receives around 400 bodies annually - only 70 percent of the number required for medical education and research.

"And for cornea transplants, demand is far higher than the numbers we have," according to Zhou Xianglan, a Red Cross official.

Objections from family members, delays in removing corneas - they must be taken within six hours of death and problems with corneas donated by elderly people, are major factors in the shortfall, said Zhou.

Officials said the Red Cross is seeking new ways to encourage donors and make more effective use of donated bodies.

Shanghai People's Congress, the local lawmaker, has included an amendment of the city's 10-year-old body donation law in this year's agenda. This is expected to add clauses allowing, in addition to corneas, donated organs to be used in transplants, Zhou told reporters.

Between 1982 and the end of last year, 29,629 people had signed up to donate their bodies, with 5,618 having done so.

Li Hao, a 73-year-old local man who registered to donate his body and corneas in 1991, suggested that the authorities give donors' relatives information on how their loved one's body was used.

"This would be a comfort to families and make other people think the donation is meaningful," said Li, whose parents were among the first batch of registered donors, and who both had their wishes realized.


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