Organ donor registrations dropped by 48 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic, Taiwan Organ Sharing Registry and Patient Autonomy Promotion Center data show.
As of the end of June, there were more than 10,000 people waiting to receive an organ transplant, including 8,254 people waiting for a kidney, 1,002 people waiting for a liver, 217 people waiting for a heart, 93 people waiting for a lung and 89 people waiting for a pancreas.
Center executive director Liu Yueh-ping (劉越萍) said people can easily register to become an organ donor by using the National Health Insurance Express App (全民健保行動快易通APP) or by signing an organ donation consent form.
Photo: Chiu Shu-yu, Taipei Times
The center encourages people to register to become a donor to help more people who are in urgent need of an organ transplant, she said.
A total of 43,510 people were registered to be a donor in 2019, a year before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the numbers fell to 32,496 people in 2020 and to 22,793 people last year, the center’s data showed.
Liu, who is also director-general of the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Department of Medical Affairs, said since the organ donation consent was added to the National Health Insurance card, more than 500,000 people have registered to become a donor in the past decade.
However, as many hospital visiting restrictions were imposed during the past two years, there were fewer chances for organ transplant coordinators to ask for people’s consent, so the number of signed consent forms fell from an average of about 3,500 per month to about 1,000 per month during the pandemic, she said.
Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital deputy superintendent Lee Wei-chen (李威震) said family members may be emotional when facing a dying family member, so if the patients had registered to become a donor in advance, it could help their family feel less stressed.
Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital was one of the few hospitals that still performed organ transplant surgeries during the level 3 COVID-19 alert last year.
Lee, a liver transplant surgeon, said patients with liver failure used to be rush to the hospital’s emergency room, but during the pandemic, some of these cases were admitted to smaller hospitals and only transferred to a larger hospital after their conditions worsened, which sometimes was too late.
Moreover, as only a limited number of family members could accompany patients, it also reduced the chances of conducting examinations for paired donations, so a few patients died because they could not receive a compatible organ in time, he said.
After the COVID-19 alert level was lowered, the center has referenced the mechanisms in other countries and invited experts to discuss how to revise the organ donation guidelines under different levels of COVID-19 alert.
Lee said medical treatment is the accumulation of experiences, so the organ donation procedures will gradually become smoother even during the pandemic.
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