Xinhua Insight: China's organ transplantation making progress

Source: Xinhua| 2017-04-20 19:17:06|Editor: An
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BEIJING, April 20 (Xinhua) -- Campbell Fraser, an Australian expert on organ transplants, received kidney transplant himself in 2003.

"When I was waiting for a transplant, I had no energy nor interest in life. It was just survival but not life," recalled Fraser, who has recovered well enough to play soccer again.

He now travels extensively to engage with governments, health authorities and NGOs on organ donation and transplants.

"China has made great progress on organ transplantation in recent years," he said during an interview in Beijing earlier this week.

"I have to be honest that I believed the rumors about organ harvesting at first, but then realized that I had been fooled after I made my own investigations," said Fraser.

Since China launched an organ donation system in 2010, around 10,000 donors have donated 28,000 vital organs after their deaths.

According to China Organ Transplant Development Foundation (COTDF), the country saw more than 170,000 people express wish for after-death organ donation in a donor registry developed by the foundation since December 2016. The number is still far from enough.

Each month, over 1,400 patients are added to waiting lists, with fewer than 900 procedures undertaken, said Wang Haibo of the China National Organ Donation and Transplantation Committee.

Data from COTDF shows that about 13,000 organ transplants were performed in 2016, while China's per million population (PMP) in donation reached 2.98, up from 0.03 in 2010. The rate is still very low, but the COTDF and the government are doing everything they can to improve the donation rate.

COTDF's organ donation registry was launched on Alipay last year and many of the online payment platform's 450 million users have since signed up.

"People can register on the LOVE HOPE donor registry in Alipay in ten seconds, as all users have already submitted their personal information when they registered on Alipay," said Wang.

In addition to the Internet push, a "green passage" has streamlined organ transportation through cooperation between multiple sectors, including civil aviation and high speed trains.

"We want to develop an ethical and sustainable organ donation system," said Wang. "After all, behind the numbers, there are patients desperate for a life."

China has strengthened law enforcement on organ trafficking to protect both donors and recipients. From 2007 to 2016, authorities including the National Health and Family Planning Commission and the Ministry of Public Security formed joint task forces to fight organ trafficking, arresting 174 criminal suspects.

China banned transplants of organs donated from executed prisoners in January 2015, since when voluntary citizen-based organ donations have been the only source of organs.

Fraser said that the international community welcomes China's involvement in organ transplants research and information exchange as the country is home to some of the leading scientists in biotechnology, a great help in the development of organ transplants.

China was invited to the Pontifical Academy Summit, held by Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences in February, to discuss organ trafficking. Wang, together with Huang Jiefu, professor and chairman of the China National Organ Donation and Transplantation Committee, attended.

At the summit, Huang proposed establishing a WHO task force to eradicate organ trafficking.

"We need international collaboration to exchange information on cross-border organ trafficking," said Wang. "We also need to learn from the systems in the U.S. and Europe, which have been developing for more than three decades."

China had the most deceased organ donors in Asia and the second highest number globally at the end of 2016, following the United States, said Wang.

According to a recent survey conducted by COTDF and Ant Financial Services Group in China, 83 percent of people said they were willing to donate organs.

"The importance is not the absolute number or ranking, but the trend, and this is the right trend," said Fraser.