Opt-out talks up in air amid plea for organ donors

Top News | Carain Yeung 20 Mar 2017

The government will decide before its term ends whether to launch a public consultation on an "opt-out" scheme to encourage organ donation, the health secretary said yesterday.

Hong Kong has been discussing whether such a scheme, which makes everyone an organ donor by default, should be implemented.

A Legislative Council Secretariat research paper in July last year said only 5.8 in every one million people in Hong Kong donated his or her organs in 2015 - one of the lowest in the world.

"There is a need for us to consider more serious measures, including the possibility of introducing the opt-out legislation," Ko Wing-man said, adding there are 250,000 prospective organ donors in the SAR, which has a seven million population.

Ko said the government is considering whether to conduct a formal public consultation. If it does, the work will have to cross over to the next administration, said Ko, who was speaking at a thanksgiving event organized by the Hong Kong Society of Transplantation.

Patients given a second chance at life thank donors during the annual event. One of those patients also shared her thoughts yesterday.

"I want to travel to Japan because I love Doraemon," said six-year-old Chiu Yan-yuet.

The K3 student caught pneumococcal infection when she was two, which caused irreversible damage to her kidneys. She was put in the queue for a transplant and had been receiving dialysis treatment for 12 hours a day before she got a new kidney last year.

"I blamed myself when she suffered from an inflammation," said her mother. "Some irritating medication had to be included in the dialysis treatment. I could only watch her suffer from pain as I could not switch off the machine."

Mrs Chiu said Yan-yuet is recovering well, gaining weight and growing tall fast. The family is celebrating with an overseas holiday in July.

Another organ recipient, Anthony Chan Pak-chuen, 59, said: "It feels like having a new friend in my heart."

Chan fell into a coma when he was skiing in Canada 20 years ago. He thought it was just flu but tests showed his heart was three times the normal size, with inflamed heart muscles caused by viral infection. He also had heart failure. He had to stop working and returned to Hong Kong.

In 2008, he was implanted with a pacemaker. He had a heart transplant last year. As well as the family of the donor, he also expressed gratitude to his wife, whom he met in 2008.

In the past, the Centralized Organ Donation Register recorded about 20,000 new donors each year but transplantation association president Chak Wai-leung said as many as 50,000 signed up last year.

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