Sun, Sep 03, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Bone donation a taboo subject

SUPERSTITIONS Many Taiwanese continue to worry that they will not be able to dispose of their loved ones' remains appropriately if they donate their body parts

By Hung Su-ching  /  STAFF REPORTER

Bone tissue retrieved from deceased humans can greatly benefit patients, but is still a long way from being widely accepted, a medical expert said yesterday.

Many local hospitals, including Veterans General Hospital, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, and Buddhist Tzu Chi General Hospital, have established bone banks.

Bone tissue comes from donors who indicate they are willing to donate their body parts in the event of death. It can also be obtained from patients who require bone replacement surgery.

Doctors said that if bones are well-frozen and preserved, they could benefit hundreds of patients in Taiwan every year. Some patients with bone tumors can even walk again after they receive bone transplants.

According to Chen Tien-hsiung (陳天雄), the director of the Orthopedics Department at the Taipei Veterans General Hospital, artificial bone tissue has become highly developed in recent years. But it is still unable to graft in the same manner as natural tissue.

Real bone tissues retrieved from humans can be nurtured inside recipients' bodies, and new cells can grow, turning the transplanted bones into a real part of their bodies.

Although the demand for bone tissue is high, and most large hospitals have their own bone banks, they seldom exchange bones with one another.

While increasing, organ donation is still not very widespread in Taiwan. Bone tissue retrieved from patients who require bone replacement surgery remains the most important source of material for transplants.

Many Taiwanese worry that they may be unable to suitably dispose of their loved ones' remains or ashes if they donate their body parts when they die.

In response to this concern, Wu Chi-chuang (吳基銓), the director of the Emergency Care, Trauma and Orthopedic Surgery Department at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, said yesterday that doctors obtain bones from donors' arms and legs only.

They usually fill donors' bodies with artificial bones. So they look the same when their bodies are cremated.

But Chen also said that not everyone can donate bones. Each donor must undergo thorough screening procedures to prevent infections and ensure quality.

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