Nearly 1,300 Chinese citizens have donated organs posthumously for lifesaving transplants this year as of Thursday, saving more than 3,000 lives, an official said.
The number of public organ donations in 2014 is expected to exceed the total in the four previous calendar years combined, said Huang Jiefu, director of the China Organ Donation Committee and a former deputy health minister. China introduced its national organ donation system in early 2010.
Under the system, Chinese can donate organs after death to save patients in need of transplants, and more than 2,730 donations have been made so far.
However, "a rising number of donations still falls short of the demand," Huang said at an organ-transplant conference in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. The conference concluded on Friday.
Huang said that about 300,000 Chinese patients need organ transplants each year, but only 9,000 could get one largely due to the low number of organ donations.
Hao Linna, vice-president of the Red Cross Society of China, said organ donation is a great benevolence that reflects a civilized society.
The Red Cross and the National Health and Family Planning Society operate the donation system nationwide, and "more than 31,100 people have signed with the society to become a volunteer for organ donations," she said.
Huang, a leading liver transplant surgeon, said: "It also has long been a dream for generations of Chinese transplant surgeons to establish an ethical and sustainable organ donation system that meets the international standard as well as the demand from Chinese people."
Before the introduction of the donation system, voluntary organ donations made by death-row inmates had long been a major source, Huang said. "That sparked criticism, particularly from the outside world, despite the fact that written consent was required for the prisoners' donations."
Zheng Shusen, China's leading organ transplant expert and member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said that the number of death sentences have been decreasing, and so "it's crucial to future development of the course of organ transplantations to set up a more reliable and ethical source of organ transplants".
He urged more people to embrace the idea of organ donations after death to help save lives.
To uphold public benevolence, "a fair and transparent allocation of donated organs has to be ensured," Huang said.
For that, the health authority has set up a computerized, urgency-based distribution system, he said.
Also, organ trading is strictly prohibited, as the Eighth Amendment of Criminal Law in May 2011 added organ trafficking as a crime.