China Focus: Organ transplant reform in China: a journey of hardship and progress

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-05 10:56:37|Editor: Yang Yi
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BEIJING, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- The most important event of Huang Jiefu's month is an organ donation and transplant conference on Saturday in Kunming, capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province.

"Over 1,000 healthcare professionals of China and some of the world's leading specialists will attend," Huang said.

Huang, 71, has been working on organ transplants since the 1980s. He performed the first liver transplant in China in 1994, and the first to combined liver and kidney transplant in Asia in 1997.

Since ending his professional career, he has dedicated himself to expanding the number of organ donors and raising awareness of China's improving organ donation and transplant system.


"When China launched the organ donation system in 2010, only 34 citizens signed up, and the number of organ donors in China reached 2,866 from January to July this year," said Huang, now chairman of China Organ Transplant Development Foundation (COTDF).

The country saw more than 220,000 people have expressed their wish for post-mortem organ donation in a registry held by COTDF since December 2016.

Online payment platform Alipay manages the LOVE HOPE donor registry, which enables Alipay's 450 million users to sign up in ten seconds as they have already submitted their personal information.

Huang said that based on the increase in organ donation, China could lead the world in transplant surgery by 2020. China is a huge country and 1,400 patients are added to waiting lists each month, with fewer than 900 procedures undertaken. That is still the second highest amount in the world, but a shortage of surgeons is impeding progress.

Currently, 173 hospitals can perform transplants with a target of 300 hospitals performing transplants by 2020.

In January 2015, China banned use of organs donated from executed prisoners and voluntary donations have since been the only source of organs. In the same year, a nationwide campaign raised public awareness and support for the cause.

"We want to develop an ethical, sustainable donation system. Behind the numbers, there are patients desperate for a life," said Wang Haibo of the China National Organ Donation and Transplantation Committee.


Hard work of Huang and his colleagues demonstrated that China has regulations, systems, and standards in line with international standards.

Recent correspondence with the World Health Organization (WHO), the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Transplantation Society (TTS) and the Declaration of Istanbul Group both surprised Huang when his dedication to organ transplants was recognized by world professionals.

"You are widely acknowledged as an academic leader who has revitalized liver transplantation in China and led the transplant reform by Chinese transplants professionals, with organ transplant regulations in China consistent with WHO (international) principals of practice and shared by the global community," said an email.

Huang said that some ill-intentioned groups are treating the sacred cause of saving lives as a political game and demonizing China, but statistics never lie and experts suggested that China ignore the rumors and move forward.

His leadership was evident at the Pontifical Academy Summit this February with his proposal to establish a WHO task force to eradicate organ trafficking.

Chinese mainland hosted its first international conference on organ donation and transplants last October.

"I feel pleased and proud to be part of this success, and to see the building of the next great donation-transplant program," said Jose Nunez, a WHO officer who oversees global organ transplantation.

Prior to the conference, the 26th international congress of the TTS was held in Hong Kong where the progress that China has made was widely discussed.