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New scheme to allow Hong Kong patients with incompatible kin to swap organ donors

A pair exchange scheme for organ donation is expected to launch in the city in the second half of next year the soonest.

The arrangement will allow two potential recipients who have incompatible kin to exchange donors for suitable organs, and is set to reduce long waiting times for kidney transplants. As of 30 June this year, 1,983 patients were lining up for new kidneys.

Dr Cheung Wai-lun, director of cluster services for the Hospital Authority, said on Thursday that the arrangement had already been approved by the authority’s ethics committee.

“We are now seeking legal advice to see if the pair exchange scheme is contradictory to the Human Organ Transplant Ordinance,” Cheung said.

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Under the city’s current laws, strangers cannot make live donations. Couples have to be married for more than three years and friends need to obtain approval from the Department of Health’s Human Organ Transplant Board for live donations.

“What we are mostly concerned about is the scheme could be seen as a conditional exchange,” Cheung added.

The board will study the plan and explore if amendments to the ordinance are necessary for the scheme to go ahead.

Consultations will be made early next year among medical and patients’ groups.

Meanwhile, an organ donation promotion campaign is set to be launched by the health department on Saturday to encourage the public to get registered as organ donors.

The annual number of registrations as donors continued to rise in the past three years, increasing from 19,868 in 2014 to 36,310 so far this year.