Law seeks to boost organ donationsOrgan donations from brain-dead patients are expected to surge following a legal revision which passed a cabinet meeting yesterday.
The revision introduced two major changes. Instead of permission from at least two family members of a brain-dead patient, donations will now require the consent of just one, and hospitals will henceforth be required to report all patients they believe to be at risk of brain death to authorized organ procurement organizations.
The change also simplifies Korea’s often time-consuming process of judging whether a patient is brain-dead, which requires multiple brain tests and a meeting between a hospital’s head doctors and religious leaders. At present, six to 10 people must participate in the meeting; in the future, only four to six people, including two doctors, will be required.
The revision also forbids health insurers from refusing medical coverage, charging more for coverage or providing lower-tier coverage to those who have donated organs in the past.
The changes will take effect in May 2001.
An average 817 people die in Korea every year waiting for an organ transplant, and around 17,000 Koreans are currently waiting on the organ-transplant list, according to the National Medical Center. According to government data, an estimated 3,000 to 9,000 people are declared brain-dead in Korea each year. However, last year only 261 organs were transplanted from brain-dead donors.
Compared to other developed countries, organ donation from brain-dad patients in Korea is relatively low, at around 5.3 per million people. In Spain, the United States and France, the rate is 35.1, 25.5 and 22.2, respectively.
“On average, one brain-dead patient possesses four to five, and a maximum of nine organs which could be donated,” said an official at the Ministry of Health and Welfare. “Internationally, countries are now encouraging [medical institutions] to increase the number of organ donations from brain-dead patients.”
By Cho Jae-eun [firstname.lastname@example.org]