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Organ transplants - to donate or not

By Liu Zhihua (China Daily)

13:29, June 11, 2013

When the family of a young trucker who died donated his organs to help others, it changed the lives of complete strangers. But can this approach to life be expanded? It's a difficult question to answer, as Liu Zhihua reports from Beijing.

Serious health problems, such as heart or kidney or liver failure, cancer, blindness, or Parkinson's disease affect millions of people around the world, altering the quality of life and putting a major burden on family members and society.

In some cases, an organ transplant may be the only treatment or lifeline available - for those who have access to the procedure. But, even then, there is such high demand for organs that many people can die before they qualify for a suitable organ.

According to the Red Cross Society of China, which runs a State-sanctioned organ donor program, China has about 1.5 million people in need of an organ transplant every year, but only about 10,000 can undergo the procedure.

The reason for this are age-old but can be illustrated by a recent incident in April. When the family of a trucker, in Wuhan, Hubei province who had died donated his organs and helped five people on the transplant list, the news spread like wildfire on the Internet. The man, Chen Gang, 35, had suddenly lost consciousness on April 21, at work, and by the second day when there appeared to be no hope of saving him, his family told the doctors they wanted to let someone else benefit from his organs.

For Yin Shumin, a 45-year-old farmer in Henan, and four other men, that one decision was a major turning-point. Yin underwent a life-saving heart transplant at Wuhan's Union Hospital, on April 23, something he had been waiting for since January.

Yin's wife, who didn't give her name, had this to say, "No one could possibly understand how worried I was while we were waiting for the results. He was getting weaker every day and the doctors explained that if he couldn't get a proper heart, he would die in a few months."

The same day that Yin was operated on, a patient he had met in the hospital, who had been waiting for a heart transplant a long time, died.

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