Organ transplant policy explained

May 22, 2023

The Government today explained that organ donors or their family members cannot designate any specific recipients or request any identity screening of the recipients, while the identity of the recipients will not be made known to the donor's family members.


It was responding to recent public interest in the cross-boundary organ transplant mutual assistance mechanism and organ donation registration.


In a statement, the Government noted that the prevailing legislation and mechanism governing the donation, allocation and transplantation of cadaveric organs in Hong Kong work on two major principles: altruism and utilitarianism. The public can register with or withdraw from the Centralised Organ Donation Register (CODR) according to their own will.


The Government has noticed that a small number of individuals distorted the virtue and altruistic value of devotion in organ donation on the Internet recently by promoting the idea that organ donors should scrutinise the identity of the recipients, even urging others to withdraw from the CODR. The Health Bureau regrets such an act which completely goes against the spirit of selfless love in organ donation.


Taking reference from the successful experience of the very first cross-boundary organ transplant case last year, the bureau and the Hospital Authority are exploring the setting-up of a standing organ transplant mutual assistance mechanism with the Mainland. The mechanism being considered is a second-tier mutual assistance allocation mechanism which can be activated immediately once suitable patients cannot be identified for any organ donated in either side of the two places and matching was unsuccessful in the local allocation system for the organ.


Some individuals also wantonly vilify the constructive significance of the proposed establishment of a standing mutual assistance mechanism for transplant by the two places, undoubtedly despising the inseparable ties between citizens of Hong Kong and the Mainland as well as various selfless acts of assistance in the past including cases of organ donations from the Mainland in saving the lives of Hong Kong patients.


These individuals completely disregard the well-being of patients awaiting organ transplants in the two places, and have misinterpreted the development of organ donation and transplantation as well as the transplant allocation system in the Mainland.


The Government highlighted that the nation has made remarkable achievements worldwide in human organ donation work in recent years, while the China Organ Transplant Response System is also highly recognised by the World Health Organization and The Transplantation Society.


Moreover, the Department of Health recently observed some abnormalities in the figures relating to withdrawal filed via the CODR website.


During the five-month period from December 2022 to April 2023, a total of 5,785 withdrawal applications were recorded, which is significantly higher than that recorded in the past. However, it was eventually found that over half of the applications were invalid ones from people who have either never opted in for the CODR or made repeated withdrawal attempts. In February alone, the percentage of invalid withdrawals was as high as 74%.


It cannot be ruled out that a small number of people have intentionally made withdrawal attempts with the aim of disrupting the representativeness of the CODR and increasing the administrative burden on government personnel. The Government strongly condemns such utterly irresponsible behaviour, the statement added.


Nonetheless, it is worth noting that there were 5,091 new registrations during the same period, implying a net growth in CODR registrations.


The Government appeals to the public to keep supporting the selfless and generous act of organ donation in saving lives by registering with the COCR.

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