CHINA - The northern port city of Tianjin has passed the country's first regulation on organ donation to help standardize and encourage public organ donation on the mainland.
The Ministry of Health and the Red Cross Society of China launched a nationwide public organ donation system about two years ago to help facilitate organ donations by the Chinese public for lifesaving transplants.
"The organ donation regulation provides a legal basis for the society's Tianjin branch to get involved in the work and will inspire other regions and the country as a whole to introduce legislation on organ donation," said Wang Ping, director of the society's relief and health department.
According to Gao Shaolin, director of the legislative affairs committee of the city's top legislative body, the Tianjin Human Organ Donation Regulation will be effective from March 1, 2013.
It was passed on Monday at a session of the city's top legislative body, he said.
Under the latest regulation, those who are willing to donate their organs after death can submit a written application and register at the city's Red Cross branch and its district and county affiliates.
The registration, however, can be modified or revoked, it said.
Also, without such applications, donors can still donate with written consent from surviving family members.
To encourage donations, the donor's immediate family will be given priority if they require an organ transplant. Civil affairs authorities will exempt donors from basic funeral expenses, it said.
In addition, the city's Red Cross branch will set up a special fund to assist donors with financial difficulties.
Statistics from the Ministry of Health show that about 1.5 million people in China need organ transplants, but only around 10,000 transplants are performed annually.
"The regulation gave detailed instructions on our work, which has proven to be very tough," said Han Jun, deputy director of the city's Red Cross branch.
The Red Cross has been commissioned by the ministry to help promote organ donations.
"We're under great pressure to do the job, given deep-rooted traditional beliefs that people should keep their bodies intact after death," said Han.
"The regulation is a milestone to enlighten the general public in China and to inform them of the importance of helping save others' lives," she said.
Also, it helps to coordinate with other departments, such as the civil affairs authorities, during the process of organ donation, she said.
Wang Ping agreed, adding that the promotion and support of public organ donation could help to ease the black market in organs.
In 2007, China issued its first organ transplant regulation, which bans the organ trade in any form.