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August 17, 2011

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Expand law on organ donation, experts suggest

SHANGHAI medical experts are urging that a national law be enacted to allow organ transplants of brain-dead patients after the southern city of Guangzhou announced its first such transplant.

Currently, Shanghai approves organ donations only on patients with cardiac death, though it has participated in a pilot program launched by the Ministry of Health to better manage organ donations and make sure patients most in need of a transplant receive one.

The Shanghai Health Bureau on August 1 announced that 10 local hospitals would be allowed to perform organ transplants from donors with cardiac death under a national scheme to encourage organ donation.

Song Guofan from the Shanghai Health Bureau said the city doesn't recognize brain death in clinical practice, because the national authorities haven't announced a unified rule or law on brain death, which is recognized by over 90 countries as a standard.

"There are potential risks if we carry out such practice," Song said. "Whenever the families sue the hospital and regional health authorities, we will lose the case because we have no legal support."

There are 1.5 million people in China needing organ transplants annually, but only 1 percent receive the surgery due to serious organ shortages.

Liu Zhongmin, president of Shanghai East Hospital, which is allowed to do transplants of the heart, liver and kidney, said the legislation on brain death should be introduced quickly.

Chinese values on life cited

"When the heart dies, other organs also fail quickly," he said. "China lags behind on brain death legislation because Chinese consider a person alive if the heart beats. People with brain death have no effective treatment, but their organs are useful."

According to yesterday's Guangzhou Daily, a 36-year-old man in Shenzhen suffered serious brain injuries after falling from a 4-meter stage on August 1.

He was transferred to the General Hospital of Guangzhou Military Command of People's Liberation Army on August 4 and declared brain dead on August 11.

His family agreed to donate the man's heart, liver and cornea under the supervision of Red Cross staff last Friday. The donated organs were removed in the afternoon.

The heart was transplanted into a 41-year-old patient and the liver went to a 62-year-old with liver failure under a national organ distribution and sharing system.

According to the Ministry of Health, the nation has a classification of organ donation in three categories: donation after brain death, or DBD; donation after cardiac death, or DCD; and donation after brain death plus cardiac death, or DBCD.

Currently China only recognizes DCD and DBCD.

While the ministry has the DBD standard, there still is no national law. The DBD standard is in line with the international practice and includes a determination of brain death from medical, ethical and legal experts, approval from family members and agreement and support from the hospital and regional health authorities.


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