Organ donation in Vietnam becoming more accepted despite cultural taboo

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More and more Vietnamese people are willing to donate their organs after death, a transplantation center operating under the Ministry of Health revealed.

Officials at the Vietnam National Coordinating Center for Human Organ Transplantation shared during a meeting on Monday that a lot has changed since the center was established in 2014.

That year, most of the center’s 200 registrants were its own officials, staff and medical workers.

Over the years, the number of people registered to donate organs grew at a steady pace, reaching over 20,000 in 2017 and over 46,000 in 2021. Today, nearly 50,000 people have registered for organ donation after death or brain death.

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Center Director Dong Van He observed that Vietnamese are hesitant to share parts of their bodies due to a belief that the deceased should be buried as a complete corpse to better prepare for the afterlife.

As organ donation has long been considered taboo in Vietnam, those who register as organ donors are often criticized by friends, families and loved ones.

According to He, many eventually changed their perspectives after being "touched" by stories about brainstem death donations.

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The current registered donors are of different ages and hail from different walks of life. In many cases, they even come from the same family.

He also shared that 95 percent of organ transplants in Vietnam involved living donors, which goes against the global trend.

So far, about 6,500 organ transplants have been carried out in Vietnam since the first was conducted in the country in 1992.

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The country still faces challenges as an estimated 10 people die each day while waiting for organ transplants.

He pointed out that the system of 22 organ transplant centers and hospitals nationwide must exert more effort in encouraging brain-dead organ donations.

The center is also seeking to address the lack of awareness among healthcare providers, as less than 30 percent of doctors and 20 percent of nurses actually have a sufficient understanding of brain death.

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