Ministry considers lifting transplants ban for HIV patients

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Aug 13, 2014 - Page 3

The Ministry of Health and Welfare is considering whether to lift a ban on organ donations and transplants for patients who test positive for HIV in the wake of a recent incident where the children of an AIDS patient with liver cirrhosis were reportedly denied the chance to donate their organs to a critically ill parent due to the restriction.

“Participants at the first meeting called by the ministry on HIV/AIDS prevention and the rights of its sufferers on July 29 have reached an initial consensus that HIV-positive patients not be denied the opportunity to receive live organs donated by spouses or relatives within five degrees of kinship,” the ministry said in a press release yesterday.

However, organ transplants should only be performed on such patients after they are deemed psychologically and medically suitable to undergo such surgery, the ministry added.

As for the ban stipulated in the HIV Infection Control and Patient Rights Protection Act (人類免疫缺乏病毒傳染防治及感染者權益保障條例) — which prohibits HIV-infected people from donating blood or organs, or receiving organs from donors deemed to be in a permanent vegetative state — the ministry said it is set to deliberate with all sectors of society, as well as concerned specialists and organizations, on the feasibility of removing the ban in the near future.

Taiwan Organ Registry and Sharing Center chairman Lee Po-chang (李伯璋) said that while the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) targets lifting the long-standing restriction on organ transplants for HIV-affected patients, transplant surgeons were divided on the issue.

“Some surgeons are of the opinion that lifting the ban could further fuel the already serious imbalance between supply and demand for organ transplants in the nation,” Lee said.

“They also say that HIV-affected patients are less suitable for organ transplants, as the immunosuppressive drugs [anti-rejection drugs] they will be required to take should they undergo the surgery could lead to complications due to their infection,” he said.

According to statistics provided by the CDC, there are currently 8,561 HIV-free Taiwanese waiting for organ transplants, up 105 from 8,456 in the previous month, while there are an average of only 200 donors per year in the nation.

Wang Shoei-shen (王水深), a professor at National Taiwan University Hospital’s Division of Cardiovascular Surgery and head of the hospital’s heart transplant team, said patients who are HIV positive should be allowed the same medical rights as those free of the disease.

“However, while I support the lifting of the ban, it should be accompanied measures to assuage public opposition or unease,” Wang said.