Chinese Organ Donation Plans Slammed

04/26/2011 12:22 pm ET | Updated Jun 26, 2011

China's plan to tackle the nation's organ transplant demands by encouraging new drivers to become donors is getting mixed reviews.

As Reuters is reporting, a shortage of organs has driven a trade in illegal organ trafficking in the country. But by the end of 2011, Chinese people will be given the option of registering as organ donors when they apply for driving licenses, and the nation is also considering financial incentives to encourage people to voluntarily donate organs in an effort to build a nationwide voluntary organ donation system.

"The move is to streamline the donor registration system so as to expand the pool of organs available for transplant surgeries,"
Vice Health Minister Huang Jiefu is quoted as saying. Although nearly 1.5 million people in China need organ transplants each year, only 10,000 can get one. "Other financial compensation could also be considered, such as tax rebates, medical insurance or tuition waivers for donors' family members."

But as the BBC reports, Red Cross officials in Shanghai have criticized the new plan, saying the government should stop trying to copy Western methods and be more sensitive to Chinese traditions. According to custom, bodies must be buried intact. "Most Chinese would think it was a curse for them to fill out such a form while applying for driving license," Shanghai Red Cross spokesman Yang Junyi is quoted as saying, noting that similar incentives have fared poorly.

In addition, knowledge of the new plan is not widespread. "The driver's license applications are now in strict accordance with current traffic laws," a press officer with the Ministry of Public Security's traffic management bureau is quoted by China Daily as saying. "And, so far, we haven't heard of any changes to those laws."

Public opinion also seems to be divided. "I won't donate till I am sure that the use is transparent and fair," Shao Pei, a Beijing-based IT worker, said.

But Shanghai Red Cross spokesman Yang Junyi said yesterday Chinese people have different concepts about organ donation than their counterparts in the West.