The government has said that there are currently no plans to introduce a system of compulsory organ donation, but research on the topic will be conducted with a public consultation to follow.

The calls came after a series of incidents involving organ donations and transplants last year, including the death of a 19-year-old girl who had been in need of a double-lung transplant.

Under Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said on a radio programme on Friday morning that the government will look into different methods of organ donation, including changing the system from one of voluntary participation to opt-out.

Sophia Chan. File

A newly-set up committee aimed at promoting organ donation would be putting its effort into educating different sectors of the community on the matter, Chan said. She stressed the importance of education and said the government currently has no stance, Commercial Radio reported.

Chan also said that – at this stage – there were no plans to implement compulsory organ donation and that the committee would first seek to understand the public’s opinion on the matter, RTHK reported. Past surveys has shown that many were in support of organ donation, Chan said, but there were few who would register online for organ donation cards, and the government hoped to improve this situation in the long run.

Research on organ donation would also be conducted and it is expected that there would be results by the beginning of next year. It would be followed by an internal discussion and a public consultation.

An organ donation card. File

Last year, Hospital Authority Director of Cluster Services Dr Cheung Wai-lun said that 170,000 people registered to become donors every year but, even if people were willing to donate their organs after their death, around 40 to 50 percent of family members do not support the decision. There are only 45 to 50 successful transplants each year.

Speaking on the topic of the government’s proposal to bring in four additional lay members onto the Medical Council, Chan said that they have been in constant communication with different groups such as the industry, the patients’ association and doctors to understand their needs. She also said that she hoped to increase the council’s transparency and accountability.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.