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New system adopted for fairer access to organs

(Global Times)

08:59, July 10, 2013

Wang Chuanli (R) made target weight to donate kidney to her son. They hold hands before the kidney transplant operation, June 27, 2013. (Photo/ xinhua)

After 6-year-old girl Shanshan from Hunan Province was confirmed to be brain dead in a Guangzhou hospital earlier this year, her parents allowed for her organs to be harvested and successfully transplanted into three patients. Her two kidneys went to two patients in Guangzhou and her liver went to a patient in Chongqing.

The girl's organs were allocated through a national computerized system for organ donation and transplant - China Organ Transplant Response System (COTRS), which was launched in April 2011.

China's public organ donations are operated by the Red Cross and donated organs are allocated within the hospitals that harvest them.

The practice of allocating donated organs through a computerized system is expected to address lingering issues of unfairness and raise people's awareness about organ donation. However, there is still a long way to go before the national allocation system becomes fully accepted and mandatory.

Where do organs come from?

"Organ transplants in China are facing a problem since (people don't know) where these organs come from and where they go," said Wang Haibo, director of the COTRS Research Center, a non-profit organization attached to Hong Kong University and headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province.

The top health authorities entrusted the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine at Hong Kong University to develop the computerized system to tackle the problems of organ scarcity and unfairness in allocation in 2009. The system has allocated 770 transplant organs in Chinese mainland since its launch, or around one-third of the donated organs nationwide.

Donated organs remain highly scarce in China. An estimated 1.5 million ailing people in China are in need of organ transplants annually, including 1 million patients with kidney diseases and 300,000 patients with liver diseases, but less than 1 percent of them receive them, according to government statistics.

China started a voluntary organ donation program in 19 provinces and municipalities in 2010. The program has seen in a measure of success, resulting in the donation of 1,804 major organs from 659 donors by this March, Xinhua reported.

However, as around 10,000 people undergo organ transplants annually in recent years, China is still the second-largest nation in terms of the number of organ transplants conducted, following the United States.

The contrast between supply and demand has caused waiting times for the general public to rise to years, giving rise to an illegal trade in organs and has left the country heavily dependent on organs from executed prisoners.

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