Chen Jingyu is vice president of Wuxi People's Hospital. He's also a deputy to the National People's Congress, in which capacity he is a leading advocate of legislation to recognize brain death.
In each of the past four years, he has submitted a proposal to the annual meeting of the country's top legislature, calling for brain death to be recognized in law.
On three occasions, his proposal has been rejected. The explanation given by the NPC in its rejection letters is that the Chinese public isn't ready to recognize the concept of brain death.
Currently, more than 100 countries and regions worldwide accept that a person can be declared legally dead if their brain has stopped functioning – even if their other vital organs can be artificially induced to keep working.
But in China, there's still no such law in place, despite it being a subject of debate for the past 30 years.
The prevailing traditional understanding is that someone is dead, only once their heart has stopped beating and they have stopped breathing.
But Chen sees this as a misconception. "The brain dead will never wake up – it's medically proved to be irreversible," he says. "Insisting on ‘saving' them is essentially not respecting the dead."
He also points to more practical considerations associated with keeping brain dead patients artificially alive. "It not only takes up the already limited medical resources but also burdens the family financially."
As a noted lung transplant surgeon, Chen has faced accusations that his advocacy for the legislation is self-serving since once brain death is declared organs can be harvested quickly for transplant.
However, he contends that, contrary to the NPC's argument, the Chinese public is, in fact, already supportive. "Most patients' family members now accept brain death," he says. "This means the public foundation for its legislation is already there."
He goes on to argue that the debate is about much more than organ transplants. "Laws and regulations on brain death reflect the progress of society," he says.
Chen Jingyu is still waiting for the NPC's response to his latest submission, which he expects to be delivered later this year.
On May 19, CGTN's Rediscovering China will feature Dr. Chen Jingyu, in the third of a three-part series on organ donations and transplants in China. Stay tuned.