China, which has made great strides in the field, vows to assist others
China will cooperate with nations involved with the Belt and Road Initiative to help them establish organ donation systems, a former vice-minister of health said on Tuesday.
"We hope our successful experience can provide a reference to countries with similar cultural backgrounds and social development levels," Huang Jiefu, chairman of the China National Organ Donation and Transplantation Committee, told China Daily.
"It has been a puzzle to promote organ donation after death for many Asian and African countries, but China has made great changes in this area in a short period of time," he said.
Many Belt and Road countries, including Pakistan and Mongolia, have proposed cooperation with China in establishing their systems, Huang said. Details are under discussion, he said.
Organ donation made new breakthroughs in China last year, with postmortem donations from more than 5,100 people and nearly 2,400 people donating organs while alive to relatives, Huang said.
"This means the rate of organ donors in China reached 5.38 per 1 million population, which makes China an advanced country in organ donations in Asia," Huang said.
The number of people whose organs were donated after death in China in 2016 was 4,080, according to National Health and Family Planning Commission.
Organ donations have seen a rapid increase since the start of 2015, when China banned organ transplants from executed prisoners, health officials said. The number of postmortem donors last year was three times the number in 2014, according to data from China Organ Transplantation Development Foundation.
With nearly 16,000 transplant surgeries last year, China has become No 2 among countries, after the United States, in the number of organ donors and organs donated, said Guo Yanhong, deputy chief for medical administration and supervision at the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
China has established a national organ donation and transplant system that follows guiding principles of the World Health Organization and ethical rules, and suits China's cultural traditions and economic social development, Huang said.
Along with wide support, the establishment of a fair and transparent organ distribution system also played a crucial role in encouraging donations, he said.
Wang Lu, an organ donation coordinator at Beijing You'an Hospital, who tries to persuade families of patients who have no chance of recovery to make the decision to donate, said her work has become easier as more people have accepted the idea.
"I am frequently moved by the families of the patients, seeing they are willing to donate ... (organs) of their family member," she said.
Normally a donor can help between three to six people survive with the organs donated, she said.
More than 373,000 people in China had registered to become donors by Dec 24, according to the China Organ Donation Administrative Center.
Despite the increasing number in organ donations in recent years, China, like many other countries, still has a shortage of organs for transplant. About 300,000 people in China with terminal diseases need organ transplants every year, Huang has said.