HIV-tainted transplant outrage prompts calls for new procedures: Taiwan

PHOTO: HIV-tainted transplant outrage prompts calls for new procedures: Taiwan

All future CEOs of Taiwan's organ donation and transplantation center will be experts in organ transplantation and will not be serving concurrent positions elsewhere, Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta promised yesterday, attempting to address the aftermath of the HIV-tainted organ transplant fiasco.

Heated discussions rose in the Legislative Yuan, yesterday, as legislators, the health minister, and leader of National Taiwan University Hospital's (NTUH) organ transplant team Ko Wen-che all had a say at the ad hoc report session of the Aug. 24 HIV-tainted organ transplants incident.

Previous investigation had deemed Ko and the NTUH lab technicians who wrongly recorded test results of the HIV-positive donor the personnel at fault in the case, which, again, yielded much uproar this week.

While Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Chieh-ju suggested that NTUH President Chen Ming-feng should also take up the responsibility and resign from his post, Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Chen Chieh reasoned that "stepping down's" do not solve problems, be it the health minister or the hospital president.

Rather than point fingers, the Department of Health (DOH) should gather all related hospitals and hold a research seminar to amend the organ donation process, Chen Chieh said, a statement echoed by KMT Legislator Luo Shu-lei, additionally claiming that the fact that the lack of a comprehensive standard operating procedure for organ transplants indicates huge error on the DOH's part.

According to Chiu, a forum on organ transplants was held on Sept. 13, where hundreds of experts were present and six general directions of advice had been made. The DOH will adopt the advice and proceed with revolutionary reformation, Chiu said.

To minimize potential communication errors when relating information regarding organ donors, Shi Chung-liang, director of DOH's Bureau of Medical Affairs, also promised that the organization between hospitals, coordinators, and the organ transplant center will be simplified, a process that will take place regionally, and eventually the center will be the only database for organ transplant information and records.

Transplant System Failure Due to Small Market: Ko

In the review he wrote of the case, Ko revealed a darker side of the organ transplant industry in Taiwan.

Those in need of a transplant must wait in line according to instructions at the organ transplant center, Ko said, pointing out that he had witnessed situations where patients had to wait in line while organs from his hospital were sent to another hospital for other patients.

Few people in Taiwan are willing to donate organs, and, added on top, "hospital politics" exist - very often some hospitals would deliver the organs they obtain to one certain hospital of transplant expertise but not others.

Such organizational issues desperately need to be changed, Ko emphasized.

Regarding issues pertaining to coordinators, Ko pointed out that because Taiwan's organ transplant market is of a very small scale, most organ transplant hospitals conduct within 10 transplants per year.

To make a living, most coordinators need to concurrently hold other jobs, which easily yields problems as they do not serve full-time, Ko concluded.