Inspiring example of organ donation

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 April, 2012, 12:00am


Life is the most precious gift, if it should ever fall within our power to give it. An inspiring but heart-rending example was our story about fatal traffic accident victim Carman Ho, and the family who agreed to donate her organs to people awaiting transplants because 'she really liked to help others'. As a result, six people aged from six to 60 can look forward to a better and longer life - two who shared her liver, two who shared her kidneys, one who received her heart and another who received a corneal transplant.

Donations in which multiple organs can be used are rare and the average number of transplants is three. Two other things also set this case apart.

Aware of the transplant possibilities, the hospital broached the subject with Carman's mother very soon after her death following nine days in a coma. To some this may sound insensitive, but it avoided the bane of transplant teams - lost opportunity for viable transplants as a result of delay in identifying possible donors through lack of awareness and co-ordination among hospitals and medical and nursing staff.

And the family proved an exception to the rule that most Chinese find the concept of organ donation difficult to come to terms with, because of a tradition that a body should be fully preserved after death. They made their decision within half an hour.

Hospital Authority statistics show that 34 people died last year while waiting for organ transplants, up nearly 50 per cent on 23 deaths in 2010. This reflects fluctuations in the number of donors - down to 4.6 for every million citizens from a record 7.5 in 2009.

Cultural traditions must be respected. Health authorities can only persist with patient and sensitive education of the community that transplants can save lives. But if they make the most of publicity about inspiring examples like that of Carman and her family, that could help bring more potential donors and recipients together with local transplant teams who enjoy an international reputation for their skills.