The legislature yesterday approved an amendment giving the recognition of a donor’s consent recorded on National Health Insurance (NHI) cards equal status to written documents, a move that is expected to facilitate the ability of patients to donate organs.
Under the amended Organ Transplant Act (人體器官移植條例), the Department of Health is required to record a person’s written consent to donate organs on his or her NHI card, while the record would be removed if the person rescinds consent via a written application.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Sue-ying (黃淑英), who initiated the amendment, said the revision would speed up the process for medical institutions to determine the wishes of patients regarding organ donations because most people carry NHI cards, but not organ donor cards, when in hospital.
Another amendment requires that the hospitals responsible for removing organs provide donors’ complete medical records and test results to counterpart hospitals in charge of conducting transplants.
“This will prevent flawed organ transplants like the ones that have occurred recently,” Huang said after the passage of the revisions, referring to an incident in August in which National Taiwan University Hospital transplanted organs from an HIV-positive -donor without knowing it, putting five transplant recipients at risk of contracting the virus.
The incident marked the first time in Taiwan that organ transplants left recipients at risk of contracting HIV.
The revisions require hospitals to collaborate with central administrative agencies to establish offices responsible for organ donation, distribution and transplants, and provide for the establishment of a national organ bank if necessary.
Meanwhile, the legislature approved an amendment to the Medical Care Act (醫療法) requiring that medical institutions phase out traditional needles in favor of safety-engineered needles within five years.
DPP Legislator Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲) said the move was aimed at protecting healthcare workers from exposure to blood-borne pathogens given that an estimated 87.3 percent of medical personnel have experienced needle prick injuries.
The legislature also approved an amendment to the Act Governing the Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the People of the Mainland Area (兩岸人民關係條例) in a bid to thwart fishing by Chinese vessels in the waters off Taiwan by imposing a maximum NT$500,000 (US$16,571) fine.
At present, Taiwanese authorities can expel or detain personnel or property owned by Chinese vessels that cross the boundary into Taiwan’s marine zone for fishing operations, but they lack the legal basis to impose a fine.
The fine for Chinese non--fishing vessels that cross the boundary into Taiwan’s marine zone was set at between NT$1 million and NT$10 million.
Additional reporting by CNA