TIME is running out for Mr Cheung. He desperately needs a heart transplant but because he lives in Hongkong, he is still waiting to benefit from a medical breakthrough made 26 years ago. Mr Cheung's (not his real name) doctor made history in the territory last year by transplanting a human heart in a 50-year-old man. Now, it is Mr Cheung's turn - but only if a donor can be found. Doctors say Mr Cheung, 47, will be lucky to be alive if he does not have a transplant in nine months. Hongkong has had only one heart transplant operation because Chinese people want to be buried intact and value their bodies - and the organs - beyond price. Mr Cheung, who is suffering from dilated cardio-myopathy, or dilated heart muscle disorder, has been ''sitting at home doing nothing'' for a year. ''I am a useless man now. What sort of a life is it when I cannot bathe myself, when getting in and out of bed is an effort, when if I concentrate on my work or if a taxi travels too fast I feel dizzy?'' said the former factory manager. ''I want to contribute to society. There is so much I want to do to help but I can't. There is simply no meaning to life - not until I have a new organ.'' The British Transplantation Society, the professional organisation of leading transplant doctors in the UK, met this month to tackle the problem of getting donors. On the agenda was the controversial proposed ''opting-out'' scheme, where organs of victims of sudden death would be used unless they had chosen not to be part of a registration scheme. After much deliberation, the society decided to ''strongly oppose'' the scheme. Dr Leong Che-hung, representative of the medical profession in the Legislative Council, was disappointed the scheme did not win the backing of British doctors. ''The fact that they started thinking about it means the usual channel of asking people to keep a donor's card in their pocket has not increased the yield of organs. If it were successful, they would not have given the scheme a second thought,'' Dr Leongsaid. However, the president of the British Transplantation Society, Professor John Fabre, said the scheme could be counter-productive. ''We think the decision of organ donation should rest with the potential donor and the family. We see it as potentially interfering with their right,'' said Professor Fabre. It could induce bad publicity. ''It sounds like you are forcing them,'' he said. But Dr Leong thinks otherwise. The medical profession in Hongkong favoured such a scheme, he said. Dr Leong said a group of doctors would meet in a fortnight to pave the way for the establishment of Hongkong's own transplantation society so the medical profession would have a co-ordinated voice in its campaign. He called on the Government to formulate a policy on organ donation, and conduct a public opinion poll. In the meantime, Mr Cheung's fate will continue to depend on the goodwill of individuals. Mr Cheung said he had never thought of organ donation when he heard of the first human heart transplant in the '60s. ''I never thought I would need an organ either. Now if you ask me, I will say yes you can have my organs when I die,'' he said. Professor Mok Che-keung, of Grantham Hospital, where the transplant would take place when a donor heart became available, said: ''I am in favour of an opting-out scheme. An organ will be of no use to its owner once he has lost the fight for life.''