China's first online volunteer organ donor registry will be launched this month to help ease the shortage of organs for transplant, a Red Cross Society of China official has announced.
"By filling out forms on the website, scheduled to open in late June, one can become a volunteer donor upon death," Liu Weixin, deputy director of the society's National Organ Donation Management Center, told China Daily during an event at Jilin University in Changchun, Jilin Province.
Gao Xinpu, a division director of the center, said people can update personal information after registering and, if they choose, revoke previous consent.
One important aspect is that a volunteer cannot donate if his or her family rejects the option, he said.
The registry will play an important role in spreading the message that organ donations save lives, Gao said, adding, "But being registered as a volunteer is not a guarantee that you can be a donor".
The organ donor registry in the United States has 129 million names, about 40 percent of the population.
According to China's National Health and Family Planning Commission, each year the country has 300,000 patients in need of life-saving organ transplants, but only 10,000 can get one.
By contrast, the ratio in the U.S. is one in four, Gao said.
China launched an organ donation system in 2010 after a trial run in 16 areas. It later expanded into 19 areas, and will cover another six locations in June, Liu said.
Training programs will be held for organ donation coordinators across the country, he said, while "a regulation to license, register and supervise coordinators will also be issued by the center this month."
Organ donation coordinators work to identify organ matches, approach and get consent from a potential donor's next of kin, and consult with doctors and hospitals.
In the future, "all coordinators will be expected to be licensed by the center", Gao said, adding that they will need to meet basic qualifications in education and medical background.
Huang Jiefu, director of the China Organ Donation Committee and the former vice-minister of health, said the registry and other measures help better inform the public of their rights to donate organs after death, as well as ensure a more ethical, healthy and sustainable organ transplant system in the long run.
"It's my Chinese dream to see a more sustainable system for organ transplants," he said.
After the system run jointly by the National Health and Family Planning Commission and the Red Cross Society of China was introduced, officials said the number of donations from the public has increased significantly.
The system so far covers 19 provinces and municipalities and has handled almost 800 donations, involving more than 2,100 organs such as livers and kidneys, said Gao at the National Organ Donation Management Center.
Data from the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University tell a similar story. The facility has carried out 1,295 liver transplants since 1993, with 72 organs from deceased donors, all coming after 2010 when the hospital joined a program to promote volunteer donations.
Of the 148 liver transplants the hospital did last year, 40 organs came from deceased donors, up from just two in 2010.
The proportion of livers from deceased and living donors also increased to 29.7 percent last year, up from 11.8 percent in 2010.
Jose R. Nunez, a transplant specialist with the World Health Organization, said China has begun a new era in organ donation and transplants based on transparency, public confidence and support.
Transplants rely on technical expertise, but they also require willing donors, he said, adding that to respect and encourage the public, "transparency, fairness and traceability have to be ensured."
Francis Delmonico, president of the Transplantation Society, agreed and said: "A volunteer registry would definitely help promote the concept of organ donation and raise public awareness."
(China Daily June 12, 2013)