중앙데일리

Bill is filed to spur organ donations

Feb 24,2009
In a bid to save people who are desperately in need of an organ transplant, the Lee Myung-bak administration will sponsor a bill to ease the strict criteria for determining brain death and subsequent organ harvesting, the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs said yesterday.

A shortage of organ donations has been a chronic problem in Korea. While the number of people waiting for an organ transplant skyrocketed, the number of people who are declared brain-dead - one of the conditions required for organ donation - remains small. According to the ministry, the number of people waiting for an organ transplant jumped to 10,709 in 2008 from 2,840 in 2000, whereas the number of brain-dead donors reached 256 in 2008, up from 52 in 2000.

“The ministry plans to draft an amendment to related laws in May after gathering opinions from various legal, religious and medical groups,” Sohn Yeong-rae, an official at the ministry’s public health care division, said yesterday. “In the past, many religious groups were against the idea of a declaration of brain death itself, but their perception has largely changed.”

Under the current law, organ donation of a brain-dead patient needs an agreement from two members of his or her family in addition to the patient’s stated wish to be an organ donor. The ministry said it plans to ease the procedure seeking the family’s permission by cutting the required number of agreeing family members to one or scrapping the requirement entirely.

In cases where a patient has not explicitly confirmed a wish to donate organs before brain death, a family member’s consent would still be required. A spouse, parent, child or sibling is eligible to make the decision.

The ministry also aims at changing requirements needed before a person is pronounced brain-dead. Currently, the judgment is made by two doctors and then confirmed by a hospital’s brain death judgment committee, composed of religious leaders, medical and legal professionals. The ministry wants to allow doctors to make a final pronouncement or to simplify the committee’s decision-making process. In line with the government’s efforts to ease control over the brain death declaration and organ donations, Grand National Party Representative Lee Ae-joo, also a member of the National Assembly’s Health, Welfare and Family Affairs Committee, submitted a bill on Feb. 20 to have an accurate database of organs available for possible transplant.

Lee’s bill would require that all hospitals register potential brain-dead patients who may be eligible for organ donations with a health ministry-run institute.



By Ahn Hai-ri JoongAng Ilbo/ Kim Mi-ju Staff Reporter [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]



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