by Michael Woodhead
China's leading organ transplant specialist Professor Huang Jiefu has launched a new national network of Organ Procurment Organisations to try clean up the organ transplant system in China.
Professor Huang also launched a new national voluntary organ donation registry, in a bid to move away from the corrupt 'organs for sale' system that has operated in the past.
Under the new system, organs will be assigned according to clinical need rather than according to payment or connections, and there will be severe penalties for doctors and transplant clinics that are found to be flouting the rules.
At an official launch by the National Health and Family Planning Commission in Beijing attended by representatives from WHO and the Red Cross, Professor Huang said that about 160 hospitals had now been approved to carry out organ transplants. In the past about 600 clinics had offered transplants for money, but under the new system any clinic that operates outside the official donor network will lose its license and doctors will be suspended. There is a ban on private organ donations for money and also a ban on procuring and giving organs from Chinese to foreigners.
However, Professor Huang said some provinces had been slow to join the new network and to play an active role in the new organ donor sharing system. He urged them to work more closely with the new system, noting that there were about 30,000 critically ill people in China who urgently needed an organ transplant. He also encouraged Chinese people to sign up for the new national organ donor registry, saying it was possible to amend or withdraw from the scheme at any time.