Friday, August 11, 2017

Organ transplants in China: an optimistic assessment

There are optimistic statements about China's progress on developing a system of voluntary organ donation (to replace the prior system of obtaining organs for transplant from executed prisoners.)   Some of these statements originate with the Chinese press. The Vatican is also optimistic.  The Vatican also has wide ranging diplomacy with China concerning quite different issues.  The stories below collectively reflect each of these things.

Here's a story in the SF Chronicle
China to lead in organ transplants by 2020

"China is on track to lead the world in organ transplant surgeries by 2020 following its abandonment of the much-criticized practice of using organs from executed prisoners, the architect of the country’s transplant program said Wednesday.
Chairman of the China Organ Donation and Transplantation Committee Huang Jiefu said the voluntary civilian organ donations had risen from just 30 in 2010, the first year of a pilot program, to more than 5,500 this year.
That will allow around 15,000 people to receive transplants this year, Huang said. The U.S. currently leads the world in organ transplants, with about 28,000 people receiving them each year.
“We anticipate according to the speed of the development of the organ donation in China, the momentum, in the year 2020, China will become the No. 1 country in the world to perform organ transplantation in an ethical way,” Huang said in an interview at his office in an ancient courtyard house inside Beijing’s old city.
China is seeking to expand the number of willing organ donors, but it has run up against some cultural barriers: Family members are still able to block a donation, even if the giver is willing, and Chinese are averse to registering as donors by ticking a box on their drivers’ licenses, considering it to be tempting fate.
Instead, authorities are partnering with AliBaba, China’s virtually ubiquitous online shopping and payment platform, to allow people to register in just 10 seconds, Huang said. Huang said more than 210,000 Chinese have expressed their willingness to become donors, although that’s a drop in the bucket compared with the country’s population of 1.37 billion.
"Huang said China has adhered to a complete ban on the use of organs from executed prisoners that went into effect in 2015, although some in the field outside China have called for the country to allow independent scrutiny to ensure it is keeping to its pledge.
Critics have questioned China’s claims of reform and suggested that the World Health Organization should be allowed to conduct surprise investigations and interview donor relatives. The U.N. health agency has no authority to enter countries without their permission.
Chinese officials say China shouldn’t be singled out for such treatment while other countries are not.
Further moving on from the days when foreigners could fly to China with briefcases of cash to receive often risky, no-questions-asked transplant surgeries, China has also taken measures to stamp out organ trafficking and so-called “transplant tourism,” including by limiting transplants to Chinese citizens."
China’s organ transplantation reform hailed by international community

"By CGTN’s Yang Jinghao

A sensitive issue just a decade ago, organ donation and transplantation in China has seen a remarkable shift during the past few years. A total of 7,000 organs were voluntarily donated between January and July this year, according to a conference on organ transplantation held in China over the weekend.

Comparatively, the number in 2010 was just 34 for the whole year.

The conference, held in Kunming, southwest China’s Yunnan Province, gathered top organ transplant professionals from major international organizations. They reviewed the achievements China has made and discussed how to strengthen international cooperation."

And here's a story from Crux (whose subhead is "Taking the Catholic Pulse")
Chinese state media highlights Vatican official at organ trafficking conference in Beijing

"In a sign of the slow thawing of relations between China and the Vatican, a Chinese state newspaper reported positively on a Vatican official’s remarks at an organ trafficking conference taking place in Beijing.
Argentine Bishop Marcelo S├ínchez Sorondo, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, attended the conference on Thursday, part of China’s ongoing efforts to convince the world it has reformed its organ donation procedures.
In 2015, the communist country announced it was stopping the practice of using organs from executed prisoners. In 2016, official statistics stated surgeons in China had harvested organs from 4,080 donors and performed 13,263 transplant surgeries, the second highest in the world. Officials said all donors were through a registered volunteer donor system. By 2020, China is expected to surpass the United States to take the top spot.
Last month the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the World Health Organization , the Transplantation Society (TTS), and the Declaration of Istanbul Custodian Group (DICG) - four of the most influential societies in promoting global ethical practices in organ transplantation - sent a letter expressing their appreciation for China’s efforts in organ donation and transplantation reform.
Despite the assurances of the government, many human rights activists are skeptical such numbers could be achieved through an exclusively voluntary system, especially after decades of reliance on the organs of prisoners."
Here are comments from Chancellor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo commending the development of the China Model


And here's a story about another realm in which China and the Vatican are simultaneously engaged.

Vatican official hints at unofficial agreement with China on bishops
"HONG KONG (CNS) -- A senior Vatican official has hinted there is an unofficial agreement between the Holy See and Beijing on the appointment of bishops, even as negotiations to formalize arrangements continue to hit roadblocks, reported

Argentine Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, who attended a conference on the sensitive topic of organ donation and transplants in the southern Chinese city of Kunming, offered the hint during an interview with state-run Global Times Aug. 4.
Here are my earlier posts on the positions taken by the Pontifical Academy regarding transplantation.

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