Top officials agree to donate organs

By Bai Tiantian and Cao Siqi Source:Global Times Published: 2014-4-3 9:01:55

Several of China's senior officials Wednesday publicly announced they would donate organs after death as the Party encourages its members to become organ donors.

China faces a severe shortage of transplantable organs, and it has proved difficult to persuade relatives of patients to agree to donations after their relative dies. 

Chen Zhu, vice chairman of the standing committee of the National People's Congress, Hua Jianmin, president of the Red Cross Society of China, and Li Jinhua, former vice chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, signed up as voluntary organ donors during an organ donation promotional campaign at Peking Union Medical College Hospital Wednesday morning.

A circular, released by the State Council in December,  encourages Party members to lead the way in the reform of funeral traditions. It also asked Party members to donate their organs after death. 

China attracted a lot of criticism in the past as media reports revealed that some organs came from executed prisoners.

With the world's second-largest demand for organ transplants, about 300,000 patients suffer from organ failure each year in China, but only around 10,000 organ transplants are performed, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

The lack of organ donors is traced back to Chinese traditions that the deceased's body must be kept intact so the soul can reincarnate properly.

"The gap between demand and supply created opportunity for black markets and caused the illicit organ trade to deteriorate," said Huang Jiefu, former vice minister of health.

Zhu Lijia, a public management professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, said that the officials can help raise public awareness of organ donation in leading by example.

"The authorities have encouraged officials and Party members to donate organs, as they expect Party members to be open-minded and not believe in suspicions," Zhu Lijia, a public management professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

There is no available data on the number of donors who are Party members or officials.

Zhu said that the circular released by the authorities is more to encourage officials and Party members rather than acting as an order, as organ donation should be voluntary.

"It's still hard to tell whether this circular and the gesture by some high-ranking officials can promote organ donation in China," Zhu said.

Party members in Anhui and Liaoning provinces were also encouraged to join the ranks of organ donors recently, local media reported.

The moves have received plaudits from Net users while others questioned why the authorities have used administrative power to promote organ donation as it should be a personal choice.

"Such a suggestion should be proposed by NGO's rather than authorities as it's not the duty or responsibility of officials and Party members," Xu Xianglin, a professor with the School of Government at Peking University, noted.

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