Bumper organ supply before lunar festival

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 January, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 January, 2000, 12:00am

THE doctor at the Guangzhou hospital where prisoners' organs were on offer was in no doubt our reporter had come at just the right time to inquire about a liver transplant.

'I cannot make it too clear . . . if you miss this chance [before Lunar New Year], you may have to wait until Labour Day [May 1].

'Some prisoners have been sentenced earlier. We will have some organs this month. Of course we have to match the patient's blood type, but no need to worry, there will be lots,' the doctor said.

This was the second doctor at the Sun Yat Sen University of Medical Sciences Affiliated First Hospital to explain that this month would be the best time for organ transplants, because there would be 'adequate supplies' available.

Another doctor from the university admitted that organs from prisoners and volunteers were used but the former group made up the bulk of donors.

'Most organs are from prisoners, prisoners are good because they are young. We have a good network, most of the livers will be sent to us,' he said.

He also suggested strongly that it was the practice on the mainland to execute prisoners before big festivals.

'Our experience tells us that there are many organs before the Lunar New Year and other big days.' The doctor said patients could first fax or e-mail their medical records to the hospital for a preliminary diagnosis or visit in person for a full check-up.

'We usually know two to three days before organs are ready, but sometimes we are told suddenly. Once we have them, we will call you at once,' he said.

'We are now a major liver transplant centre, we have patients from all over, such as Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong.

'I have a patient coming from Shenzhen today,' he said.

'Liver transplants require more skills than kidney transplants. For other ordinary operations our success rate is almost 99 per cent.

'For liver transplants it is about 80 per cent,' the doctor said.

It is understood that a Hong Kong patient with hypertension died soon after the transplant operation due to a brain haemorrhage.

A third doctor revealed that one or two patients had died on the operating table during transplants.

'They were all very weak patients. In the United States, doctors will not conduct transplants on some serious liver cancer patients because they have a very limited number of organs,' the doctor said.

'They would rather use the organs on patients with a good chance of recovery.

'But we are different; we have many supplies. At least the patients can prolong their lives and their quality of life after the transplant can also be better.'