A unified bone bank was established by 11 Department of Health-affiliated hospitals yesterday, which health officials said will help improve the allocation and availability of human bone tissue for use in surgery.
Chen Hsing-yuan (陳興源), an orthopedic surgeon at the Taipei Hospital, said the supply of bone was limited due to traditional beliefs that maintain the importance of leaving corpses whole.
"Even those who are willing to donate their major organs are sometimes unwilling to donate their bones," he told the news conference yesterday.
Estimates reveal that only around 17 percent of organ donors opt to donate their bones.
"We are trying to educate people about how much donated bone can help others," Chen said.
Bone tissue from just one donor can help dozens of patients including those who need bone reconstruction after serious injury, spinal fusion surgery and artificial joint replacements, he said. There is no perfect substitute for human bone for some surgical procedures, he said
Chen used the example of Ms. Hsu (
"If we had put in an artificial joint, she would likely have to deal with the repeated failure of the joint during the course of her life," Chen said. "However, since we used human bone tissue, the repairs were able to knit perfectly with her existing bone and her joint is perfectly sound."
There are artificial joints made out of titanium, he said, but they are very expensive and inferior to human bone tissue.
Family members need not be afraid that the removal of bone will impact the appearance of the body.
"Of course we ensure that the bones are replaced with supporting materials so that the body will appear the same," he said.
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