Fast-lane approval for graft surgery

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 November, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 November, 1997, 12:00am


Patients needing approval for urgent organ transplants out of office hours will soon be at the mercy of pagers, faxes and conference calls.

Under new rules governing organ transplants, doctors must gain the approval of the nine-member Human Organ Transplant Board before removing an organ from a living donor.

Transplant board chairman Sophie Leung Lau Yau-fun yesterday set out the logistics of the new regulations.

She said emergencies would be catered for, but in such situations 'we will have to rely on electronic devices to get applications processed'.

She said doctors would be provided with the pager and fax numbers of board members, who would then use a conference call to screen the application.

'If there's an organ case which needs to be dealt with immediately, we intend to set up a fax number and pager number so we can react right away,' Mrs Leung said.

'The application will be faxed to each of us individually and we will set up a conference call.

'We intend to carry this through.' Mrs Leung said approval must be granted by at least five board members.

The approach was met with a wait-and-see attitude from some private doctors. 'It's an understandable hassle,' Medical Association council member Dr So Kai-ming said.

'We want some safeguards to make sure there's informed consent from living donors.

'I would give them the benefit of the doubt at this stage,' Dr So said.

Transplant board member Dr Ignatius Cheng Kum-po said: 'It's the only thing the board can do, I guess.

'The number of patients going to have transplants between living, unrelated persons is not that high. The number of transplants done in Hong Kong is minute.' In 1995, there were 19 kidney transplants from living donors and 44 from cadavers. The waiting list stands at about 950.

Dr So said it was taking too long for the new rules to be brought into force.

'I'm surprised this bill has been passed for so long, yet it's not even operational now,' he said.

The bill was passed in February last year. The regulations will be tabled in the Provisional Legislative Council on Wednesday, with ratification to take 28 days.

The Chief Executive and the Health and Welfare Bureau will decide when the ordinance and regulations will take effect.