Taiwan has approved so-called "non-heart-beating" donations of human organs, becoming the first Asian nation to do so. Organ donations have been limited across Asia to cases of "brain death." However, non-heart-beating donation has been practiced for more than a decade in western countries such as the UK, Netherlands, Spain, the United States and Canada. Taiwan's Ministry of Health and Welfare expects that liberalization of its rules will allow organ donations
to grow by 20 to 30 percent next year. According to current Taiwanese official statistics, there are more than 9,000 candidates waiting for organ transplants, but only about 265 deceased donors available. The shortage of organ donors means that many patients die before an organ becomes available. The non-heart-beating donations consensus
was reached on Oct. 5 during a meeting convened by government officials, medical experts and lawyers. The meeting concluded with four criteria for organ donation after cardiac death, including a five-minute observation after the heart has stopped beating. Shih Chung-liang, director general of the Department of Medical Affairs, said regulations would soon be announced so hospitals could formulate procedures for non-heart-beating donations. Opponents worry that the new procedures will not conform to a 'dead donor' requirement prohibiting removal of organs that actually causes the death of the donor. Some critics maintain that the five-minute observation period cannot ensure the patient is really dead. In addition, organs quickly deteriorate after the heart stops beating. So, there is a concern
that the organs removed after the heart stops functioning will be more difficult to maintain in a good condition than those removed after brain death. Chen Yih-sgarng, a professor of cardiovascular surgery at National Taiwan University, said non-heart-beat donation would in the first stage of the program be limited to cases where brain death could not be determined. Criteria for hospice and palliative care would also have to be met, Chen said.
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It was hoped that the number of organs donated would increase by about 70 annually.