Most misinformed on organ donation: data

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Aug 06, 2013 - Page 3

Nearly 70 percent of Taiwanese are willing to donate their organs after they die, but only 1 percent have had their consent listed on their National Health Insurance (NHI) cards, a recent survey conducted by the Taiwan Organ Registry and Sharing Center showed.

The survey was conducted in March and showed that “organ donation” is no longer an unfamiliar term for the public, as 67.3 percent of those polled said they would be willing to donate their organs and 78.5 percent are willing to giver their organs to family members.

Eighty-seven percent of those who said “yes” to donating said the reason they agreed to do so is that they want to help those in medical need, while 35.5 of those who would not donate ascribed their unwillingness to religious or spiritual beliefs that a person’s body must remain intact even in death.

Of those who said they would donate, 8.7 percent have signed an organ donor consent form and 91.2 percent have not, the survey showed.

Even though 81.9 percent of those polled who have not signed the form said they are interested in doing so, only 1 percent of the population — 218,000 people — has done so, the center said, citing data provided by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

An amendment to the Organ Transplant Act (人體器官移植條例) passed in 2011 states that after the consent form has been signed, the information will be automatically stored on the donor’s NHI card, without them having to take any further action.

Yet the survey found that 65.2 percent of participants are unaware of the amendment, while 66.6 percent do not know that after their consent is registered, it is legally binding.

Center chairman Lee Po-chang (李伯璋) said the public’s level of familiarity with the NHI card-bound consent and its legal commitment is low and the government needs to act to raise awareness and understanding of organ donation.

Some experts have expressed concerns over the consequences of integrating donor consent into the NHI system, saying that doctors having access to the consent registry could prevent them from doing their best to save a patient to acquire an organ, Lee said.

“That is highly unlikely and also illogical because doctors still need the consent of the patient’s immediate family to remove an organ from a deceased patient,” Lee said.

Lee also said that although donating livers, hearts and lungs is seen as more urgent because these organs often involve matters of life or death, kidney donations are also needed and should be encouraged.