The decreasing rates in organ transplants emphasized a need for developing other techniques to save millions of people with deceased organs in Hong Kong.
One of Hong Kong's most eminent transplant surgeons, Dr. Chan See-ching is the chief of liver transplantation in Queen Mary Hospital (QMH). He explains about his groundbreaking operation to save the life of 59-year-old Cheng Chi-ming.
"Live donor liver transplant is a lot like jazz. It's best if you improvise," said Dr. Chan See-ching.
Cheng was in a critical condition where a team of doctors spent more than 10 hours to merge partial organs from two of his daughters in one simultaneous live liver donor transplant (LLDT).
Chan decided to merge the two partial organs into one complete liver and then transplant the whole into the father. This reduced the risk by making the highly complicated transplant a single procedure. This is the First Merged Live Liver Donor Transplant in the world.
In 2009, Chan had a 30-year-old female patient with a liver that was fully functional but produced proteins that caused acute limb numbness and weakness. It was an error in the metabolism but the liver could serve another person. Therefore, the female patient was given a part of her husband's liver in an LLDT while Chan's team transplanted her old organ to a 60-year-old.
"This is an essential recycling. What is guaranteed is that if they don't have an operation, they would die," he said.
Improvisation and ingenuity have proved to be a necessity for Hong Kong's transplant surgeons because there is an acute shortage of organs - hearts, kidneys and lungs, as well as livers - from deceased donors.
The reluctance to sign up to donate organs after death is a common problem all around the world. As of July 31, out of a population of 7.24 million, there were about 172,000 names on the Centralized Organ Donation Register in Hong Kong.