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Russia could allow child organ transplants - paper

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MOSCOW, July 13 (RIA Novosti) - Russia could authorize child-to-child organ transplants as of next year, following requests from medics and despite opposition from rights groups, a respected daily reported Friday.

Kommersant said the health ministry was finalizing documents which set out medical criteria and rules for transplanting children's organs. The rules are currently being studied by the Russian Academy of Sciences' medical research institutes.

Organs for transplants would be taken from patients after brain death, a diagnosis that must be confirmed after 12 hours. Such decisions would be made by a team of experienced medics led by the chief doctor of the hospital in question. Permission of the donors' families is also required, the newspaper reported.

"The need for organ transplants among young patients is enormous, and this is awful. It is because transplants of donor children's organs are not allowed in Russia," Alexander Baranov, head of the Russian Academy of Sciences' pediatrics research center, told the daily.

The paper cites Moscow's coordination center for donor organs, which says 5,000 Russians, 30% of them children, need transplant surgery every year. The Academy of Sciences said an average of 200 children a year need donor kidneys, 100 wait for replacement livers, and 150 require heart surgery.

"We have filed written requests with the health ministry many times, as organs are taken from children in all civilized countries. Children there do not die just because they were not operated on in time," Valery Shumakov, head of a research institute on tissue and bioartificial organ transplants, told the newspaper.

"It is high time to give the go-ahead to child donor transplants in this country instead of taking kids abroad [for surgery], which is expensive," prominent pediatric surgeon Leo Bokeria told Kommersant.

But some rights groups insist that lifting a ban on children's organ transplants is immoral, and could end up in mass abuse of rules by doctors, the daily said.

"Calling a person whose heart is still beating dead, just because his brain has died, is premature," said Alexander Saversky, who heads a public board protecting patients' rights. "People can stay in coma for several years. My opinion is that those patients should not have their chance to live seized from them."

"Donor organs will save a lot of kids, but we cannot rule out that doctors will abuse their duties, taking organs from donor children without their parents' permission. ...there must be tough punishment for unscrupulous medics," Kirill Danishevsky, president of an evidence-based medicine organization, was quoted by the paper as saying.

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