The Ministry of Health will soon establish a national human organ donation system to ensure patients get a fair chance to receive a life-saving transplant, a spokesman said Wednesday.
Deng Haihua, the ministry's spokesman, told a press briefing that a draft regulation, which is still open for public input, is set to increase the efficiency of organ distribution. The new regulation will boost supervision of surgery and make it easier to match donors with those in need through a national data system.
Health Minister Huang Jiefu vowed in March to set up a national organ donation system in a bid to change the country's reliance within three to five years on executed convicts as the major organ source.
A system that has data on patients who need organs and hospitals that have them has been in place since 2011, Deng told the Global Times in a phone interview. He emphasized that the proposed new rules improve on regulations that were first put in place in 2007.
Those regulations, issued by the State Council, stipulate that organ transplants must be voluntary and done without charge. Hospitals bear the responsibility to make sure the donor had consented.
The new regulation establishes an automatically generated waiting list with the closest hospitals getting first priority. Organs will then be offered to other hospitals in the province, and after that the rest of the country.
The fixed rules for distributing organs will promote transparency and fairness in the organ transplant system, Zhang Zengjiu, director of the medical management department of the ministry, told caixin.com.
Hu Yihua, a lawyer who was the counsel for Cai Shaohua, a main suspect in a well-known organ sales case in 2010, agreed.
"The information system is positive in promoting the transparency of donations through regulating the source of organ donation, increasing distribution efficiency and reducing illegal deals from organ transplant procurement and distribution," he told the Global Times.
"However, preventing illegal organ sales through regulating donation sources is far from enough," Hu added. He said establishing a system to boost the number of donors is more important, because there is a large shortage of organ donors in the country.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, about 1.5 million people are waiting for organ transplants annually, but there are only 15,000 people registering for donation across the country, the China Youth Daily reported.
A network for organ donations and transplants will be formed by 164 qualified hospitals nationwide, and a committee jointly founded by the ministry and the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) will supervise the network, Xinhua cited Deng as saying.
China bans organ donations from living donors, except for close family members such as spouses and blood relatives.