(SCMP, December 18, 2002) By Ella Lee A proposal to limit liver transplants in Hong Kong to a single centre could compromise patients' interests and lead to the SAR lagging further behind Western countries, a Chinese University study has warned. The head of the Chinese University team said in his report that a conservative estimate of the demand for such operations - the most expensive carried out at public hospitals - is 200 a year. About 70 are currently performed. Professor Albert Chui Ka-keung's report was handed to the Hospital Authority last week. A review of the situation was promised by the authority after Professor Chui was prevented in June from using a donated liver because of a quota system aimed at keeping costs down. An expert panel which visited Hong Kong this month to review surgical services recommended restricting liver transplants to a single centre. There are currently two liver transplant centres in the SAR - the University of Hong Kong centre at Queen Mary Hospital, which handles 80 per cent of transplants, and the Chinese University centre at Prince of Wales Hospital. The expert panel, headed by vice-principal of the University of Edinburgh Sir David Carter, recommended that 'all liver transplants should be carried out by one team and centralised in one designated centre'. But Professor Chui said in his report the government should face up to the high demand for the operation. The incident in June, revealed by the South China Morning Post, prompted debate about how much public money should be spent on liver transplants - which cost between $600,000 and $800,000. There was a public outcry after the donated liver was wasted, and Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Yeoh Eng-kiong ordered the scrapping of the quota system, saying it was unacceptable. More than 100 patients are on the waiting list for liver transplants. Professor Chui's research showed most European countries have a higher liver transplant centre per head of population ratio. However, the University of Hong Kong liver transplant centre says one centre will be sufficient to deal with demand for the next five years. Resources should be concentrated on improving quality, it added. Professor Fan Sheung-tat, head of the University of Hong Kong team, said: 'How many liver transplant centres a place needs depends not only on the local demand but also the organ donation rate.' Glossary compromise (v) to weaken a principle by accepting standards that are lower than is desirable lag behind (phrasal v) to fall behind in progress or development face up to (phrasal v) to take notice of and act accordingly Example: What worries us all is whether the current administration has the guts to face up to the structural budget deficit, and other social, economic and political issues, and take the appropriate action. (SCMP, December 14, 2002) outcry (n) a strong protest or objection scrap (v) to get rid of something Discussion points - Is one liver transplant centre enough for Hong Kong? Give supporting arguments. - When resources are limited, who should get medical treatment first? Where do you draw the line between patients who are suffering from terminal health problems, those with chronic but not fatal illnesses and those with the flu?