Live organ donors get priority for transplants
Live organ donors will now move up the queue if they need an organ transplant, under a new plan to encourage more people to donate organs and save lives.
Professor Philip Li Kam-tao, chairman of the Hospital Authority's Central Renal Committee, said Hong Kong's rate of organ donation was much lower than that in many Western countries.
In Hong Kong's best year, about seven out of every one million people donated organs, far below countries like Spain, where the rate is 30 to 35 per million.
As live kidney donations are safe, the committee decided to add priority scores for kidney donors if they ever suffer kidney failure and go onto waiting lists.
Live donations are currently far outnumbered by donations from deceased individuals.
Li said Hong Kong should consider starting a registry for live kidney donation as public attitudes become more receptive.
"Hong Kong can learn from practice overseas in setting up such a registry," he said.
At present, anyone in need of a kidney must find a match from a family member or go into a queue for a deceased donor. Donations from strangers are very rare and require official approval, part of a safeguard mechanism to prevent organ trading.
There were 1,808 patients on the waiting list for kidneys as of the end of last year. Eighty-four patients received donations from deceased donors in 2012, the highest number in the past decade, but just 15 received live donations.
Most waiting patients are on dialysis, which allows them to live without a new kidney, but dialysis can cause complications or even kill them.
Li said transplants remain the best treatment, extending and improving patients' lives.