China Red Cross denies organ claim

CHINA - The Shenzhen branch of the Red Cross Society of China has denied a news report on Monday alleging it asked for donations of 100,000 yuan (S$21,100) from recipient hospitals for each organ donation the society helped facilitate.

The Shenzhen branch has never participated in the process of organ donations, it said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The branch will inform hospitals when it is informed of potential organ donors, and it is the hospitals' responsibility to send expert groups to assess the donor situation, conduct organ removals and transplantation surgeries," it said.

The Shenzhen Red Cross said it received only 150,000 yuan from the General Hospital of Guangzhou Military Command in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, after the branch cooperated with the hospital in 25 organ donation cases over the past three years.

"But the money received was used to help with organ donors' medical bills before death, and the utilization of the money is always transparent," it added.

Li Jindong, deputy director of the organ donation office under the Guangdong Red Cross branch, said: "The Red Cross Society in Guangdong province does launch some lawful donation drives for the poor family members of deceased organ donors, but we never ask for donations for providing organs".

Zhao Lizhen, director of the society's Shenzhen branch, said the city was unable to perform any organ transplants for six years before two local hospitals were qualified to conduct transplants in July 2011.

"Shenzhen now lacks professional donor assessment groups for organ transplants, so the Shenzhen Red Cross has very close contact with qualified hospitals in Guangzhou and other regions on the mainland," Zhao told local media.

She denied that her branch acts as a third party for potential organ donors.

Many of Shenzhen's organ donations come from its migrant worker population.

Li from the Guangdong Red Cross said organs donated are allocated 100 per cent via the China Organ Transplant Response System software, which does not allow human intervention.

"Patients on top of the system's waiting list who are in the most urgent need would get matched with organs regardless of whether they are rich or poor," he said.

Wang Haibo, who heads the system, did not give a direct response.

"We need to do further data analysis to substantiate the allegation," he told China Daily.

Gao Xinpu, a division director of the National Organ Donation Management Center under the Red Cross Society of China, said the society's legally recognised liabilities do not include the allocation of donated organs.

He also said the society has no access to the allocation, and therefore "cannot initiate an allocation at all".

"Only organ procurement organisation workers can do that," he said.

At the website of the members-only China Organ Transplant Response System, the allocation process is open to OPO coordinators, OPOs, and transplant hospitals.

System head Wang said that organ allocation involves medical expertise, and that the system helps ensure a fair allocation regardless of the financial status of waiting patients.

"Each OPO should set up its own organ donation coordinator team to detect and approach potential donors, facilitate organ donations, and initiate allocation via the system," he said.

China had recorded 918 public organ donations on the mainland by July 7 this year, according to Gao of the Red Cross National Organ Donation Management Center.

"All of them were witnessed by Red Cross organ donation coordinators," he noted.

Huo Feng, OPO director under the General Hospital of Guangzhou Military Command, said every transplant hospital should strictly abide by the country's laws and regulations in conducting organ donations and transplantation surgeries.

He also denied that his hospital had paid the Shenzhen Red Cross for sourcing organs.