The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government has said some people distorted the altruistic value of devotion in organ donation by promoting the idea on the internet that organ donors should scrutinize the recipients’ identity, even urging others to withdraw their application. 

The Department of Health recently observed some abnormalities in the figures relating to withdrawal filed via the Centralised Organ Donation Register (CODR) website, the government said in a statement on Monday.

“The Health Bureau expresses regret towards such act which completely goes against the spirit of selfless love in organ donation,” the statement reads.

The statement came in response to recent public interest in the cross-boundary organ transplant mutual assistance mechanism and organ donation registration.

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Explaining that organ donors or their family members cannot designate any specific recipients or request any identity screening of the recipients, the government said the identity of the recipients will not be made known to the donor's family members.

The prevailing legislation and mechanism governing the donation, allocation, and transplantation of cadaveric organs in Hong Kong work on the above two major principles.

HKSAR govt

The prevailing legislation and mechanism governing the donation, allocation and transplantation of cadaveric organs in Hong Kong work on two major principles – altruism and utilitarianism. The public can register with or withdraw from the CODR according to their own will, it said.

“Taking reference from the successful experience of the very first cross-boundary organ transplant case last year, the Health Bureau and the Hospital Authority are exploring the setting-up of a standing organ transplant mutual assistance mechanism with the mainland,” reads the statement.

The mechanism considered is a second-tier mutual assistance allocation mechanism which can be activated immediately once suitable patients cannot be identified for any organ donated in either side of the two places and matching was unsuccessful in the local allocation system for the organ, it added.

“Some individuals also wantonly vilify the constructive significance of the proposed establishment of a standing mutual assistance mechanism for transplant by the two places, undoubtedly despising the inseparable ties between citizens of Hong Kong and the mainland as well as various selfless acts of assistance in the past including cases of organ donations from the mainland in saving the lives of Hong Kong patients.”

These individuals completely disregard the well-being of patients awaiting organ transplants in the two places, and have misinterpreted the development of organ donation and transplantation as well as the transplant allocation system in the mainland, said the government.

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The nation has made remarkable achievements worldwide in human organ donation work in recent years, while the China Organ Transplant Response System is also highly recognized by the World Health Organization and The Transplantation Society, the government stressed.

Withdrawal application

During the five-month period from December 2022 to April 2023, total 5,785 withdrawal applications were recorded, which is significantly higher than that recorded in the past, according to the government. 

“However, it was eventually found that over half of the applications were invalid ones from people who have either never opted in for the CODR or made repeated withdrawal attempts,” it said, adding that the percentage of invalid withdrawals was as high as 74 percent in February alone.

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It cannot be ruled out that a small number of people have intentionally made withdrawal attempts with the aim of disrupting the representativeness of the CODR and increasing the administrative burden on government personnel, the government said, strongly condemning what it termed “utterly irresponsible behavior”.

During the same period, there were 5,091 new registrations, which shows a net growth in CODR registrations, the government said.

It appealed to the public to keep supporting the selfless and generous act of organ donation in saving lives by registering with the COCR, and “not to let a small group of people with ulterior motives to jeopardize the hard-earned atmosphere in support of organ donation over the years”.