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Ann Acad Med Singapore. 2009 Apr;38(4):346-8.

The transplantable organ shortage in Singapore: has implementation of presumed consent to organ donation made a difference?

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Department of Anaesthesiology, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Singapore.


The success of solid organ transplantation in the treatment of end-stage organ failure has fuelled a growing demand for transplantable organs worldwide that has far outstripped the supply from brain dead heart-beating donors. In Singapore, this has resulted in long waiting lists of patients for transplantable organs, especially kidneys. The Human Organ Transplant Act, introduced in 1987, is an opt-out scheme that presumes consent to removal of certain organs for transplantation upon death. Despite this legislation, the number of deceased organ donors in Singapore, at 7 to 9 per million population per year, remains low compared to many other developed countries. In this paper, we reviewed the clinical challenges and ethical dilemmas encountered in managing and identifying potential donors in the neurological intensive care unit (ICU) of a major general hospital in Singapore. The large variance in donor actualisation rates among local restructured hospitals, at 0% to 56.6% (median 8.8%), suggests that considerable room still exists for improvement. To address this, local hospitals need to review their processes and adopt changes and best practices that will ensure earlier identification of potential donors, avoid undue delays in diagnosing brain death, and provide optimal care of multi-organ donors to reduce donor loss from medical failures.

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