A national system to make selection of organ-transplant recipients fairer was announced yesterday by the Ministry of Health, though experts say it will do little to address the mainland's organ donation crisis.
Health ministry spokesman Deng Haihua said the agency would soon publish a draft regulation to create a centralised system for monitoring both organs available for transplant and patients awaiting operations, allowing authorities to make more efficient matches.
Once in place, which mainland media said could happen in as little as three years, the system would enable health officials to match the most needy cases with available organs from the country's 164 accredited organ-donation hospitals, Deng said.
The new regulation would expand on the 2007 code that set up the accreditation system and banned organ trading. Later that year, Beijing also agreed to phase out the harvesting of organs from death row inmates.
Studies by mainland academics put the number of patients awaiting transplants at about 1.5 million at any given time, while hospitals only report 11,000 transplant operations each year. The shortfall has been blamed for helping create a huge underground organ-trading market.
Zhang Zanning, a medical law professor at Southeast University in Nanjing, said a centralised organ-donation system would provide some benefits by reducing waste, increasing fairness and improving transparency.
But he questioned how strongly the regulation would be enforced and suggested that it would be more feasible for the ministry to first create provincial-level transplant systems.
He said authorities must do more to promote voluntary organ donations and change people's attitudes about the practice. The more than 20,000 people who die each day on the mainland should provide an ample source of organs, he said.
He Xiaoshun, the organ-transplant chief at the First affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, told the Guangzhou Daily a public effort in educating people about the value of organ donation was necessary to fundamentally end inequality in the system.