Korea is still struggling with the mismatch between the supply and demand of donor organs.
As of July 2017, some 32,867 people are registered as waiting for an organ donation. However, so far this year only 1,695 people donated organs.
Over the last five years, a total of 7,776 patients have died while waiting for a new organ. According to the data released by the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention; this year alone, 703 people have died.
The number of organ donors is chronically insufficient in Korea. People should wait about 1,185 days on average to become a beneficiary of organ donation.
In Korea, as of 2016, a total of 573 brain-dead patients donated their body parts such as bone marrow and skin, allowing for 2,306 transplant operations.
Image coutesy Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Although the number of organ donors in Korea has been on the gradual increase for the last five years, as the number below indicates, it is still far lower than in many other countries.
In Korea, the number of organ donors of brain-dead patients is 9.96 PMP (per million population), compared to Spain with 39.7 PMP, the United States with 28.5 PMP, Italy with 22.52 PMP and England with 20.2 PMP.
2013: 2,422 persons
2014: 2,476 persons
2015: 2,567 persons
2016: 2,865 persons
2017 (July): 1,695 persons
The inconvenient truth about organ donation in Korea
The Ministry of Health and Welfare is leading a campaign to raise greater public awareness on the importance of organ donation and donation pledges.
“Donation is an important part of end-of-life care. It is a positive experience for families in the long term. It’s good for families that are grieving, and it’s also good for families on the waiting list,” said an authority from the Ministry, explaining the goal of the campaign.
However, there has been criticism of the “fractured” organ donation system. Some experts claim that if we want to increase the number of donors, first of all, our society needs to provide enough service to bereaved families so that they feel that the donation is a worthy and meaningful act
There was news coverage of SBS broadcasting on Oct. 9 about one organ donor’s story.
Hur Gun-young lost his 24-year-old son last June because of a sudden accident and he was determined to donate his son’s organs after his death to a hospital. But he never expected to hear from the hospital that he had to deal with his son’s organ-removed body from the hospital and move it to the funeral on the donor’s side.
He complained about it, but the only answer he could hear was “Sorry, we, our hospital, have no other option.”
In Korea, the Korea Organ Donation Institute provides various services and incentives for organ donors and their families, but the problem is that it is applied to only the hospitals which have agreements with the Institute.
Currently, out of a total of 77 hospitals which run the organ donation program, only 44 hospitals can offer after-donation service, which means that the other 30 hospitals should ask donors to take care of the donors’ body.
“I had to move my son’s body with my car myself from the hospital. It was really difficult to see it,” said Hur, adding that he felt regret for making the decision to donate.
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