Chinese expert refutes lung transplant rumors

By Zhang Hui Source:Global Times Published: 2020/5/21 21:08:41

Chen Jingyu a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC) and renowned expert in the lung transplant field, with other doctors perform a lung transplant surgery for a COVID-19 patient in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province in April. Photo: Courtesy of Chen Jingyu

Foreign medical experts have been turning to their Chinese counterparts for experiences in lung transplants for COVID-19 patients after China successfully conducted the world's first double-lung transplant for COVID-19 patients in February, a renowned Chinese lung transplant surgeon said.

This sharing of experience improves foreign countries' understanding of China's organ transplant and donation systems, and it helps quash rumors of organ harvesting, Chen Jingyu, a deputy to the National People's Congress, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

Chen, who is also a renowned expert in the lung transplant field, said that his team have held video conferences in April with medical experts from Duke University in the US. Medics from Cleveland in the US and Milan, Italy also asked him about how to select COVID-19 patients for lung transplant surgery and how to protect patients and surgeons during the operation.

The first double-lung transplant opened a door for the world to learn about China's organ transplant technology and its mature organ donation system, Chen said. 

Chen and his team performed the world's first double-lung transplant operation on a 59-year-old confirmed COVID-19 patient on February 29 in Wuxi People's Hospital, East China's Jiangsu Province, where Chen is the deputy head. 

He finished another such operation on March 10 before going to Wuhan, the worst-hit region in China, to finish two similar surgeries in April. 

Chen and his team will soon organize another international conference, inviting medical experts from Europe, the US and Canada to share China's experiences in lung transplant surgery. He also plans to visit other countries.

China ranks No. 2 in the world in terms of the number of organs donated, only after the US. China completed 6,302 organ donations in 2018, statistics showed. 

However, some opponents of the Chinese government abroad continue to accuse China of collecting organs in inhumane ways. A foreign research institute published an article recently speculating that lungs used for transplants in Chen's surgeries were not collected from voluntary donors, due to China's short waiting times for the organs. 

While refuting such speculation, Chen said that China only uses about 5-6 percent of donated lungs each year while some Western countries may use 25-30 percent. 

"We have enough donated lungs, but we have a small number of patients in need of them. This is the main reason why patients did not need a long time to get lungs," Chen said.

It takes only around three months for a patient to receive a lung transplant operation in China, but patients in some other countries may have to wait months or even more than a year.

Chen said that China wastes around 1,000 donated lungs each year for various reasons including poor preservation and difficulty in transferring the lungs from donors to recipients.  

"We get all the transplanted lungs from hospitals through normal procedures. They were donated by patients who were declared brain dead or heart dead," Chen said. 

Foreigners who claim China is harvesting organs from prisoners are supported by some anti-China forces to slander China and blaspheme China's organ donation system, Chen said.

He said all foreign experts who came to China to observe the surgeries praised China's achievement in organ transplants.

Newspaper headline: Surgeon refutes rumors on lung transplant for COVID-19 patient


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