Organ donors are life savers: top VN doctor

June 30, 2017 - 09:00

Professor Dr Trịnh Hồng Sơn, deputy director general of the Việt Đức Hospital cum director of the National Co-ordination Center for the transplantation of human tissues, speaks to the monthly newspaper Nhân dân (People) about challenges his center is facing in looking for organ donors to meet the increasing need of patients.

Trịnh Hồng Sơn
Viet Nam News

Professor Dr Trịnh Hồng Sơn, deputy director general of Việt Đức Hospital cum director of the National Co-ordination Centre for the Transplantation of Human Tissue, speaks to Nhân dân (People) newspaper about challenges in finding organ donors

In your capacity as director of the National Co-ordination Centre for the Transplantation of Human Tissue, what are the biggest challenges that you have faced in the last decade since the law on donation, removal and transplantation of human tissue and organs and donations and recovery of cadavers came into force?

In the last 10 years, Việt Nam has recorded notable achievements in the transplantation of human tissue. We now have 18 health centres qualified for organ transplantants nationwide. In the pipeline, some provinces, including Thanh Hóa, Thái Bình, Quảng Ninh and others have developed plans to set up organ transplant facilities.

I support them, but a key message I want to send to them is that they have to strictly abide by the Vietnamese law on human tissue transplantation.

It is undeniable that tissue transplantation brings benefits to recipients and many other patients. As we all know tissue transplantation is not a normal surgical operation, it requires efficient co-ordination from many medical workers, including surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses and others.

It was reported that by June 15, 2016 Việt Nam had 1,281 cases of successful kidney transplants, 16 cases of heart transplants and 54 cases of liver transplants. Do these figures show the country’s achievements in organ transplantation?

I don’t deny that. But in any human organ transplantation we must have a donor and a recipient as well as post operation care.

All essential requirements for conducting almost all human organ transplants are available in our country, ranging from legal requirements, medical logistic requirement, medical experts and others.

But the demand for organ transplantation is much bigger than the number of organ donors. Frankly speaking, we don’t encourage living people to donate their organs, but we want to have organs from people who are brain dead. In Việt Nam, every year many die in traffic/labour accidents and if their relatives agree to donate their organs, many lives will be saved.

The Vietnamese Law on donation, removal and transplantation of human tissues and organs has already addressed this issue.

Have you and your colleagues registered to donate your organs?

Yes! Many of us have registered to donate our organs when our brains are dead. However, in many countries, instead of registering to donate organs, the law regulates that people who are above 18 years old who do not want to donate their organs must opt out.

However, in reality, the story sometimes goes differently. Dead people registered to donate their organs, but their close relatives object to the transplant, in these case, doctors can’t do anything other than respect the decision of the relatives.

But the message I want to convey to everyone is that what you donate may save the life of other people.

Why do many Vietnamese patients go abroad for organ transplants?

In my opinion, the reason they have to go abroad for transplants is because the organs they need are not available in our country. I want to reiterate that Vietnamese physicians are on par with their foreign peers in organ transplantation. In addition, the medical cost in Việt Nam is much cheaper than in foreign countries. I’m sorry to say this is a big waste!

The list of people waiting for organs is very long.  Doctors and nurses are always ready to conduct transplants when organs are available.

Don’t you think that poor people can benefit from organ transplants?

Yes! Why not? The only requirement is that they have to register. And, for us – medical staff are ready if the organs are available. And of course, health insurance companies need to be involved. We vow not to let any patient awaiting an organ transplant to die when the organ is available, just because they don’t have the money! — VNS