People needing transplants are set to take precedence over other candidates on the waiting list starting tomorrow if their spouse or a three-degree relative is an organ or tissue donor, the Taiwan Organ Registry and Sharing Center said yesterday as it announced the implementation of the long-awaited policy expected to boost organ donations.
“The new policy’s implementation not only demonstrates that Taiwan is a patient-centered country where ethics and the law are both upheld, but also makes it the first nation in the world to give families of organ donors priority on transplant waiting lists,” center chairman Lee Po-chang (李伯璋) told a news conference in Taipei. “This marks a significant and substantial milestone in the country’s development of organ donations and transplants.”
Under the new regulations drawn up by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, people are to be allowed to move higher on the transplant waiting list if any of their relatives within three degrees of kinship or their spouses have donated organs or tissues, providing that other registered candidates are not as ill.
According to the Civil Code, a person’s first-degree relative is a parent or child; second-degree is a grandparent, grandchild or sibling; and third-degree relatives are great-grandparents, uncles, aunts, nephews, great-grandchildren and nieces.
Current regulations only allow the organs of a brain-dead person to be donated to their fifth-degree relatives by blood or marriage. If none of them require an organ transplant upon the person’s death, the organs are then given to other patients on the list. The donor’s relatives are not be given priority should they need a transplant in the future.
Lee said that as of noon yesterday, a total of 8,657 people nationwide were waiting for a new organ, of them 6,421 are in need of a kidney transplant.
“However, there are only slightly more than 200 organ donors in Taiwan per year on average, which makes the demand 40 to 175 times greater than the supply,” Lee said, adding that he hopes the new regulation could help promote the notion that “helping others is helping yourself.”
Wang Tsung-hsi (王宗曦), director of the ministry’s Department of Medical Affairs, said the new policy is retroactive, meaning that people who are able to present documents showing their relatives’ donation history would be moved to the top of the waiting list, regardless of how long ago the procedures occurred.
“More than 90 registered candidates are expected to receive priority once the new policy takes effect,” Wang said.
One of them is the eldest son of 77-year-old Chao Li-chuan (趙麗娟), who decided to donate her youngest son’s usable organs five years ago after he died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage.
“The Buddha has taught me to be compassionate and merciful. When my youngest son passed away, I thought of those patients who had died waiting for an organ and decided that it was best that my boy’s organs were given to others in need,” Chao said.
Three years later, Chao’s eldest son suffered kidney failure and has been on dialysis ever since while he awaits a transplant.
“I never thought that the decision I made years ago out of pure altruism would now give my eldest son a better chance of getting a new kidney,” Chao said. “The new policy is rather encouraging.”
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