A former Chinese vice minister’s offer to help set up a mechanism to facilitate organ donations from China to Taiwan should be viewed with caution, considering its legal and political implications, officials and the head of an organ registry center said.
Speaking at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Greater Kaohsiung yesterday, former Chinese deputy minister of health Huang Jiefu (黃潔夫) said that China would cease using organs of executed prisoners next year, and that Beijing hoped to establish a platform to legally transport organs to Taiwan for organ transplant procedures.
Saying that Chinese regulations on organ donations are far looser than Taiwan’s and hinting at China’s greater supply base, Huang said there are about 10,000 organ transplants being carried out in the country annually.
Photo: Chen Wen-chan, Taipei Times
“Although the demand is currently greater than the supply, we believe that the magnanimity of the Chinese people will eventually prevail and allow for greater numbers of organs to be donated after the ban on using organs from executed prisoners,” said Huang, now the head of the National Organ Transplantation Committee at China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission.
“In the eyes of China, both Hong Kong and Taiwan are considered ‘domestic territories,’ and it is quite normal for citizens to donate their organs to one another,” Huang said.
Transportation of the organs — which can be kept in 4oC containers for 16 to 24 hours — would not be a problem, he said.
Responding to Huang’s comments, senior adviser to the Presidential Office Steve Chan (詹啟賢) said he was willing to endorse such a project because it is a “good thing,” but further understanding of legal regulations should be considered.
Taiwan Organ Registry and Sharing Center chairman Lee Po-chang (李伯璋) said that Huang’s comment that people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to “one big family” is evidently a move to take political advantage of Taiwan.
“While we cannot deny the benign intentions of the Chinese offer, its premise — the consideration that Hong Kong and Taiwan are domestic territories — is taking political advantage of Taiwan,” Lee said.
He also questioned China’s capability to supply organs abroad when it could barely meet its own needs.
Aside from Sri Lankan donations of cornea to Taiwan for transplants, there have been no other cases where nations have exported human organs to Taiwan, Lee said.
According to the center, there are about 8,000 people waiting for organ transplants on a daily basis, but only 200 donors and 800 beneficiaries annually.
The government must seek to encourage the donation of organs within the country and not fall for promises that could harm domestic development, Lee said.
The organ donation rate in China is far lower than that in Taiwan, and China is already having difficulty meeting domestic demand, Ministry of Health and Welfare medical affairs director Wang Tsung-hsi (王宗曦) said.
Taking transportation efficiency, organ preservation, the waiting list and differences in legal regulations into account, it would be best if China and Taiwan keep their paths separate and try to satisfy their respective domestic needs, Wang said.
Additional reporting by Lin Hui-chin
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