BEIJING The Chinese government is considering offering financial incentives to people to voluntarily donate organs, state media said on Monday, as the country tries to tackle the problem of demand for transplants outstripping supply.
China in 2007 banned organ transplants from living donors, except spouses, blood relatives and step or adopted family members, but launched a national system to coordinate donation after death in 2009. The organ shortage has driven a trade in illegal organ trafficking in the country.
State news agency Xinhua cited Vice Health Minister Huang Jiefu as telling a local newspaper that the governments should "cut back medical costs for donors during their hospital stay and their funeral expenses."
"Other financial compensation could also be considered, such as tax rebates, medical insurance or tuition waivers for donors' family members," Xinhua quoted Huang as saying.
By the end of this year, Chinese people will also be given the option of registering as organ donors when they apply for driving licenses, so there will be a record of donors in case the driver dies, Huang said.
"The move is to streamline the donor registration system so as to expand the pool of organs available for transplant surgeries," he added, though nobody will be compelled to register as a potential donor.
Nearly 1.5 million people in China need organ transplants each year, but only 10,000 can get one, according to the Health Ministry.
Many organs for transplant are still harvested from executed criminals, according to Chinese media, something senior health officials have expressed distaste at.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Yoko Nishikawa)