Traditional beliefs hitting liver donation

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 July, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 July, 1996, 12:00am

Liver donations are dropping because bereaved families are holding to the traditional belief that a deceased's body should be buried 'whole'.

Dr Lo Chung-mau of Queen Mary Hospital - one of the territory's two liver transplant centres - said that last year it conducted only 13 transplant operations, although 50 were needed.

An associate professor of the University of Hong Kong's department of surgery, Dr Lo said six patients died last year when donors could not be found.

He said that concerning the 13 transplants carried out last year, nine livers had been donated from accident victims.

He attributed the poor response to insufficient publicity, adding that the intense promotion last year helped families to realise the importance of liver donation.

Dr Lau Ka-kit, senior medical officer in the department of medicine at the same hospital, said traditional Chinese unwillingness to donate deceased relatives' organs was still a major hindrance.

'It's a cultural trait. Sometimes families will stop us from extracting organs even if patients have signed donation cards,' Dr Lau said.

'We try to convince them that the organs can save lives if used properly,' he added.

'After all, the organs will decompose or be cremated.' He maintained that since the establishment of the Liver Foundation in 1992, there had been an increase of about 20 per cent in donations, although the rise was still insufficient.

Thirty-six liver transplants have been carried out at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital since 1991, with 14 coming through family donations and 22 from other patients.