An operation to remove a liver for transplant. (Photo/CNS)
Municipal branches of the Red Cross of China have been criticized for controlling two thirds of the nation's donated organs and asking hospitals to make donations if they want the use of these organs.
According to the Chinese-language Beijing News, the charity is able to possess such a substantial share of organs because of the lack of a mandatory system for their allocation and shared use. The gap has led to the circulation of a large amount of donated organs outside the system.
In May this year, Yao Lin (pseudonym), an employee at a military hospital in Guangzhou, decided to publish accounts of the tight lock the Red Cross has on organ donations after the hospital failed to obtain information on possible organ donors from the organization's local branch for several months. "The local branch of the Red Cross failed to provide relevant information to us, possibly due to refusal of the hospital to donate funds," says Yao. Yao notes that the Shenzhen branch has failed to provide records on the use of donated funds in the past.
Trial practices of organ donation has been carried out in China for over three years but organs are still a limited resource, as the donation rate is less than one in a million.
In China, only one in every thirty patients in need of an organ transplant succeed in finding a suitable donor. Due to the huge demand, the cost of a liver transplant can be 400,000-500,000 yuan (US$65,000-$80,000) in some places.
The Shenzhen Red Cross is a pioneer in carrying out a trial program for organ donation. The municipal organization has three employees dedicated to the task, including education in local hospitals about the program and with families of potential donors. The unit has access to a vast database on potential organ donations.
According to the Beijing News, there are 300,000 people on the list for life-saving organ transplants every year. But only 10,000 are matched with an organ.
The Shenzhen Red Cross branch has placed a tariff for the provision of information on potential organ donors, according to an employee at a hospital in Guangzhou. The Red Cross has denied the claim.
According to the Beijing News, Shenzhen's request for funding from hospitals was in order to establish a humanitarian financial relief fund for the families of organ donors. Ninety percent of the families of organ donors encounter financial difficulties after footing the medical bills of patients.
The municipal branch typically charges hospitals 100,000 yuan (US$16,300) for success in obtaining an organ, an employee at a hospital in Guangzhou reported, adding, "We don't have knowledge about the actual use of the money."
Zhao Lizhen, vice chairperson of the Shenzhen branch, points out that hospitals profit considerably from organ transplants and should contribute part of the profits to the families of organ donors to pay related medical bills.