Law seeks to boost organ donations

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Law seeks to boost organ donations

Organ 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 [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]
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병원, 뇌사 추정자 신고 의무화


내년 5월 말부터 뇌사로 추정되는 환자가 발생하면 의료기관은 반드시 당국에 신고해야 한다. 또 뇌사자가 생전에 장기 기증 의사를 밝힌 경우 유가족 한 명의 동의로도 기증이 이뤄질 수 있다. 현재는 가족 중 선순위자 2명의 동의가 필요하다.

정부는 25일 국무회의를 열어 이 같은 내용의 ‘장기 등 이식에 관한 법률’ 개정안을 의결했다. 지난해 261명에 그친 뇌사자 장기이식을 활성화하기 위한 취지다.

개정안에 따르면 뇌사 추정자의 장기 기증을 설득하고 뇌사 판정부터 장기 적출에 이르는 과정을 관리·지원하는 장기구득기관제도가 도입된다. 의료기관의 뇌사 추정자 발생 신고도 이곳에서 받는다. 장기 이식이 지연되지 않고 빠른 결정이 이뤄지도록 뇌사판정위원회 구성원도 현행 전문의사 포함, 6~10명에서 4~6명(의사 2명 포함)으로 줄어든다.

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