Thu, Aug 17, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Penalties to deter doctors who set up transplants abroad

MATCHMAKERS Medical practitioners who help patients find organs in other countries could lose their licenses or be sent for further education

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Doctors will face punishment if they introduce patients to overseas institutions to receive organ transplants, the Department of Health said yesterday.

According to a recent resolution reached by the department's medical ethics committee, doctors violate medical ethics if they play the role of matchmakers between patients and organ transplant organizations in other countries, regardless of whether or not they charge fees for the service.

In particular, the resolution prohibits doctors from charging patients and personally accompanying them to countries where organ transplant information remains difficult to access or to nations which have come under fire from the international community over human rights violations.

The resolution also applies to other medical professionals, the department's Bureau of Medical Affairs said in a press release.

Violators will be punished according to the Doctor Law (醫師法) and other laws regulating medical personnel, said Lin Chin-li (林錦麗), a section chief of the bureau.

The doctors will either be warned, required to receive further education or restricted to only practicing certain types of medicine. More serious punishments can also apply, including being suspended from practicing for between one month to one year, and having their medical license and certificate revoked.

Lin said that although there had been no such cases in this country, the bureau would like to remind doctors that such acts were illegal.

"Doctors should evaluate patients' health conditions if the patients insist on going abroad for organ transplants," Lin said.

"Based on medical ethics, they should also faithfully inform patients and their families of the medical environment in those countries and the sources of organs," Lin said.

According to health department statistics, about 6,900 people were in need of an organ transplant at the end of last month, most of whom were waiting for kidney transplants.

The bureau said the total was still increasing.

Given the large number of people on the waiting list, however, only about 570 patients are able to receive transplants each year, the bureau said.

The bureau also advised patients who have received organ transplants abroad to register with a follow-up health monitoring system at the Taiwan Organ Registry and Sharing Center to ensure that they have good health care after their operation.

Last year, only 153 organ donations were made nationwide from people who had died, with most of the donors coming from northern Taiwan, according to the center's data.

Most of the donations were kidney and cornea donations.

Since 2004, the health department has been promoting placing a mark on the national health insurance cards of those people who are willing to donate organs when they die, to encourage more people to become potential donors.

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