THOUSANDS of patients in need of organ transplants are not even registering for the operation because the lack of donors leaves them with no hope. The vice-president of the Medical Association, Dr So Kai-ming, said yesterday the organ donor situation was so bad, there was no way to tell how many people needed transplants. 'A lot of people just give up and don't come forward,' he said. Association president Dr Lee Kin-hung said there were more than 2,000 people registered as waiting for transplants - half of which were for corneal transplants. Of the rest, 700 patients are waiting for kidneys, 150 need livers, 80 want bones, and about 20 are hoping one day for a heart transplant. Dr Lee said the chances for obtaining a transplant, especially among the heart patients, were slim. 'Their chance depends on several figures - whether you have got a donor, and whether the organ is suitable for transplantation,' Dr Lee added. He said part of people's reluctance to donate organs was tied to cultural beliefs of the need to keep the body intact after death. 'But this is changing slowly and we hope to be able to persuade more people to donate some or all of their organs after they die.' The association launched a computerised register of potential donors two years ago so hospitals could instantly check whether a newly-deceased patient had given permission for their organs to be donated. So far, 9,171 people have registered, of which 7,219 - almost 78 per cent - have pledged to donate their whole bodies. Others have chosen to specify which organs they donate. More than 40 per cent of potential donors come from the 20-30 year age group, while both the 10-20 year age group and the 30-40 year age group account for almost 25 per cent each. Women have also shown themselves to be more inclined to donate their organs and comprise 57.3 per cent of the registered donors. The register was established to replace the old system of carrying a donor card, which Dr Lee described as 'not so satisfactory'. 'The person may or may not have been carrying it at the time it was needed,' Dr So said. Seven hospitals have instant access to the register, 24 hours a day. The association has joined forces with the Central and Western District Board to hold a walkathon at the Peak to raise more donors for the register. Participants in the event, due to take place on Sunday, March 26, are encouraged to collect donor forms instead of money.