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China will revise its regulation to improve oversight of organ donation and transplants, according to an official from the National Health Commission.
The changes will include new rules on the donation, retrieval and distribution of organs and punishment for violations, said Fan Jing, an official in medical supervision and evaluation at the commission. She spoke at a conference on organ donation and transplantation held in Wuhan, Hubei province, on Thursday.
Unlike the existing Regulation on Human Organ Transplantation, the revised rules will specify the legal responsibilities of various parties in the sector, including Red Cross societies at different levels, medical institutions, organ procurement organizations and medical staff, Fan said.
The new regulation also aims to be more effective in holding accountable medical institutions and local health authorities found to have violated laws and regulations, she said.
Fan did not provide further details such as when the new regulation will be released.
In addition, the commission will also introduce new rules to improve supervision of organ donations and transplants to ensure legal practices are used and quality services are provided, she said. These include the management of organ donation coordinators and data collected during organ donations and transplants, she said.
Huang Jiefu, a former vice-minister of health and now chairman of the China National Organ Donation and Transplantation Committee, said the existing regulation governing human organs, which was released by the State Council in 2007, is outdated and needs revising.
"More than 10 years have passed since release of the regulation, and great changes have happened in China"s organ donation and transplantation," he said.
One major point of progress is the rapid increase in the number of organs donated since 2015, the year when China stopped using organs retrieved from executed prisoners, making voluntary donation the only legitimate source for organ transplant surgeries, he said.
But the existing regulation includes few details regarding organ donation, and it needs revision to include more rules on donation, such as specifying voluntary donation as the only source and ensuring fair distribution of organs through a computerized system, he said.
"Quality of transplant surgeries can be assured at certified hospitals, but there are also some uncertified clinics where uncertified doctors perform surgeries, and patients should not choose them," he said.
The organs of more than 6,300 people were donated after death in China last year - a total of nearly 18,000 organs - an increase of 22 percent compared with the previous year, according to the National Health Commission.
Nearly 1 million people had registered to be organ donors by the end of January, according to the China Organ Donation Administrative Center.