Organ donors in China are expected to exceed 5,000 this year, nearly twice the number in 2015, when voluntary donations became the only legal source of organs, the China Organ Transplantation Development Foundation said on Thursday.
This could make China the country with second-largest number of organ donors this year, said Huang Jiefu, president of the foundation, part of the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
"If everything goes well, China is expected to become the world leader in organ donations and transplantations by 2020," Huang said, giving no exact figures.
The number of organ donors in China reached 2,866 in the first seven months of the year, an increase of 33 percent compared with the same period in 2016, according to Wang Haibo, director of the China Organ Transplant Response System, which coordinates organ distribution and sharing.
The number of organ donors in China this year is expected to exceed 5,000, and more than 15,000 organ transplant surgeries are expected to be completed, said Wang, also a member of the foundation's council.
In 2015, 2,766 people donated organs after death, and the number increased to 4,080 last year, Wang said.
The number of people willing to donate their organs after death has kept increasing in recent years. As of July 16, more than 293,000 people had registered as potential organ donors, and more than 34,500 organs had been donated, according to the foundation.
Voluntary donations have become the only legal source of organs for transplant surgeries in China since January 2015, when China banned transplants of organs acquired from executed prisoners.
Nancy Ascher, president of The Transplantation Society, said China has made achievements in encouraging voluntary organ donations and ending its involvement in the international organ trade.
Despite the increasing number of organs, a large gap remains between supply and demand of transplant organs, which are the only option for some patients with terminal diseases.
More than 40,000 patients in China are awaiting a transplant organ, but only about 16,000 will undergo the surgery this year, according to the foundation's Huang, a former health minister.
In addition to a shortage of transplant organs, several other causes also contribute to the gap between supply and demand, including the high expense for such surgeries and a shortage of doctors certified to perform them, Huang said.
Huang said the number of hospitals certified to conduct transplant surgeries in China is expected to increase from 173 to 300 by 2020.