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May 10, 2017

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Joint approach over organ donations

AN EU-China project to boost organ donations was launched in Shanghai yesterday.

Seven Chinese universities, including Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, will cooperate with affiliated hospitals and international experts to offer courses in organ donation for medical professionals and postgraduate medical students.

Recent years have seen a rapid growth in the number of donors in China though the ratio is still lower than in the West.

The number grew from 0.03 per million people in 2010 to last year’s 3 per million. The ratio rose rapidly after 2015, when China stopped harvesting organs from executed prisoners.

In Shanghai last year it was around 5.75 per million people, almost twice the national level.

The new courses — under the banner “Knowledge Transfer and Leadership in Organ Donation from Europe to China” — will introduce Chinese professionals to how countries in the West approach the subject, including their clinical approach, management and dissemination strategies.

“We want to promote three concepts among medical staff and students through the program — the recognition of brain death, organ preservation after the patient is declared dead and communication with families,” said Dr Chen Xiaosong, a coordinator of the organ procurement program at Shanghai’s Renji Hospital, which is also involved in the project.

“Many doctors don’t realize the importance of organ preservation,” Chen said. “When we arrive at the donor after getting the family’s approval, the organs can be useless. Skill in communicating with families is crucial.”

Francis Delmonico, an organ transplant expert and adviser to the World Health Organization, said more research was needed into how the concept of organ donation is understood in Chinese culture.

“We should study how many people die, how many are suitable to donate organs and how to identify donors and get their family’s consent,” he said.

Wang Qian, of Beijing’s Capital Medical University, said that its graduate medical students would be studying the influence of culture, religion and tradition on Chinese people’s attitudes to organ donation.

Dr Wang Lu, an organ coordinator at Beijing You’an Hospital, said: “We go to communities, schools and enterprises to promote the knowledge of organ donation.” He said the project was aimed at raising awareness among students so that when they become doctors they can identify potential donors in their clinical practice and help achieve more donations.

China launched a trial organ donation program in 2010 and began to promote the practice across the country in 2013. Over 104,000 volunteers registered to be organ donors in China last year, three times the number in 2015.

There were 4,080 organ donor cases in 2016, with 11,296 organs donated, up nearly a half compared to the year before.

Though donations are growing, there is still a shortfall. Each year, about 1.5 million people wait for transplants in China, but only about 10,000 receive them.

Many Western countries have a rate of between 20 to 30 donors per million, while Spain has around 40 per million.


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