Social stigma and absent legislation mean only a tiny percentage of patients get the organs they need Wang Yaxin and her mother have more than just blood ties in common. Two years ago, Tan Shi ping gave her daughter one of her kidneys as part of a life-saving operation. 'Giving my kidney to my daughter was the only right and proper thing to do,' Ms Tan said. At the weekend, the mother and daughter were one of three family pairings contesting the 100-metre relay in the first Chinese Transplant Games in Wuhan . The event attracted 194 transplant recipients from 19 provinces and municipalities. The games may not have been competitive but the symbolism was clear - for organ transplant recipients life is like a relay, where another chance at life is passed on. Around the world, about 30 per cent of donors are family members while in the US, the figure is as high as 52 per cent. But on the mainland, relatives account for only 2 per cent of donors in transplant operations. The bulk of organs are harvested from either executed prisoners or people who signal their willingness to donate before they die. Chen Zhonghua , director of the organ-transplant research institute of Wuhan's Tongji Hospital, said there was room for improvement on the mainland. Professor Chen said mainland doctors had the expertise to do a range of transplant operations but there was a general lack of awareness in the community about the process. He said some patients, particularly government officials, did not want people to know they had received a donor organ for fear of discrimination. He said the patients were not covered by medical insurance or government welfare and most of the operations were self-funded. And many patients refused a family member's offer of an organ. Wen Yugui , a 58-year-old woman from Shanxi , has been in Wuhan waiting for a kidney match for the past three months. She has turned down her two sons' offers to donate a kidney. 'I have absolutely said 'no' to my two sons,' she said. 'I know very well the advantage of family donation and it is safe for donors but I told them I would rather die than receive their kidneys. 'They are still young and I don't want to see them suffer any ill-health in the future.' The mainland has no laws governing organ donation or brain death and the games are an attempt to nudge the government forward on the issues, according to another Tongji Hospital professor, Chen Shi . 'We want the government to make this issue a priority on their legislative agenda,' Professor Chen said. 'We would see a few more organs become available if a brain death law came into effect, but the traditional Chinese idea of retaining a complete body would mean there wouldn't be a dramatic increase. But the more the better.' A small number of organs come from volunteers who sign a donor card. But the scheme is only in place in a few large cities, while Shenzhen introduced it in August. The situation for thousands of mainland patients in need of a transplant is critical. Less than 1 per cent of the half a million or so patients with kidney disease are lucky enough to undergo operations each year. For patients, finishing the operation is just a first step. For the rest of their lives they have to take expensive anti-rejection medication, the cost of which can be overwhelming. 'My daughter takes nearly 2,000-yuan worth of drugs a month, more than the combined salary of me and my husband. So I have to do extra part-time jobs,' Ms Tan said. But some help is on the way. At the beginning of the month, Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis set up a fund for people who have donated organs to family members. There is 1 million yuan in the pot to give 60 people 5,000 yuan per year for the next three years.