To build a fair and ethical transplant environment, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) yesterday said she aimed to propose clearer legislation on overseas organ transplants and tighter regulations on post-transplant care covered by National Health Insurance (NHI) for those who traveled abroad for the transplants.
Tien made the remark at a round-table discussion hosted by the Taiwan International Care Association for Organ Transplants and the Department of Health that was attended by experts and lawmakers.
Two issues surrounding organ transplants in Taiwan were spotlighted by foreign experts and Taiwanese legislators: using executed prisoners as organ donors and post-transplant medication insured by the NHI.
Jacob Lavee, director of the heart transplant unit at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, said he used to hold up Taiwan on various occasions as a prominent example of a nation that had stopped taking organs from executed prisoners, who are considered unwilling donors, until he regretfully discovered Taiwan had resumed using such organs two years ago.
The Department of Health’s Bureau of Planning head Shih Chung-yuan (石崇原) said in response that “although there is no law banning the use of organs taken from executed prisoners, the government does not encourage it and has stopped soliciting organ donations in the prison.”
Concerning the current lawless state of organ transplants performed abroad, Shih said that in 2009, an amendment to the Organ Transplant Act (人體器官移植條例) was proposed that would require all organ recipients, in Taiwan or abroad, to register with local authorities, but it was not passed.
Tien also called for stricter regulation for organ transplants performed abroad, saying that since the majority (88.6 percent) of Taiwanese organ recipients went to China for organ transplants that are often from questionable and unethical organ sources, but continue to be insured by the NHI for post-transplant medication, “it almost seems like all Taiwanese who contribute to the NHI are complicit with the illegal and unethical organ-harvesting crimes perpetrated in China.”