China to be world's top organ transplant country by 2020

Updated 2017-12-19 09:30:28 CGTN

The controversial attempt to do the world's first human head transplant surgery, carried out by a Chinese doctor, put China's organ transplant industry back into the spotlight, again.

Many Chinese doctors bashed the surgery, done on a corpse, as a severe violation of medical ethics. Huang Jiefu, the director of China Organ Donation and Transplantation Committee, called it a national disgrace during the China-International Organ Donation Congress in China's southern Guangzhou city.

"That surgery was a scam and a typical example of news sensationalism which did damage to China's national image. The head transplantation has no future when even the regeneration of neurons is still technically impossible," said Huang.

Huang said an investigation team has been formed to look into the head transplant surgery.

Huang's rage came with a reason.

Because of a shortage of volunteer donors, China used to utilize organs from executed prisoners in order to perform needed transplant surgeries. However, the practice, which put China under severe criticism for years, was banned in 2015.

The country is now trying to explore new ways to develop its organ transplant industry, by integrating international standards and Chinese realities.

Huang told CGTN that the World Health Organization calls it a Chinese model of organ donations and transplants. He added that the difference in the Chinese model from that of the West is that China is the only country where a central government plays a leading role in developing organ donations and transplants.

In addition, China has developed its own criteria for human organ donations as well, taking into consideration brain death, heart death and brain-heart death.

So far, nearly 15,000 organs have been donated and over 360,000 donors have been registered in China. It's predicted that the country will become the world's top organ transplant country by 2020.

But experts say that the public's willingness to donate organs still needs to be improved.

Professor He Xiaoshun, vice president of the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University, said: "In America, there are 30-40 donors on average for every one million people. But in China, the number is only about 3-4. We need to raise the level of acceptance in China surrounding the concept of organ donations, which needs the active engagement of both the media and the press."

While complying with international standards, China has begun taking a lead in developing organ transplant technology.

In August, Professor He Xiaoshun's team improved upon a six-decades-old organ transplantation method, by creating an environment similar to the human body with a continuous supply of blood.

According to Profesor Jose R. Nunez, an adviser to Geneva Headquarter of the World Health Organization, He's new method could be the future for all the organ transplant surgeries.

"I think China is heading to be the center of innovation in transplantation. So now we're not defending China. China is on the forefront at the edge of technology, patient care and developing new solutions to transplantation," said Prof. Campbell Fraser, a member of the Transplantation Society Of Istanbul. ‍

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