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Draft law unlikely to stop illegal organ trade

  • Published at 02:10 am July 22nd, 2017
  • Last updated at 02:38 am July 22nd, 2017
Draft law unlikely to stop illegal organ trade
The recent amendment to the draft Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 2017 is not only unlikely to stop illegal trade of human organs but may well cause a new problem for doctors, claim experts. With nearly 20 million of Bangladesh’s 160 million people suffering from some form of kidney disease, and given the rise in the spread of chronic kidney diseases, the country’s highest number of organ transplant surgeries are, naturally, kidney transplants. Experts say that Bangladeshis spend an estimated Tk300cr annually for kidney transplants abroad, as the procedure is still rather restricted in Bangladesh. In an effort to develop treatment services and to prevent illegal organ trade, on July 17, the Cabinet approved a draft law expanding the list of relatives who can donate organs to a person. This, move, however, may not suffice. Professor AK Azad Khan, president of the Diabetic Association of Bangladesh, told the Dhaka Tribune: “The sale of any human organ is illegal in Bangladesh, but the government needs a high powered committee to address the issue so that illegal trading is identified.” “Although the amended law may help reduce the illegal trade somewhat, it may also become problematic for many patients. If they cannot manage organ from close ones, how will they get organs?” he explained. Doctors feel that desperate patients may now resort to passing off unrelated donors as relatives as it would be difficult for hospitals to verify the recipient’s true relationship with the donor. For over a decade, illegal trade of organs has reportedly been going on in as wealthy recipients and brokers convince poor and illiterate people to sell their organs by making false promises of money, jobs and travel to foreign countries. According to a 2017 report by Global Financial Integrity (GFI), entitled “Transnational Crime and the Developing World”, a kidney is available for as little as $2,000 (around Tk160,000) in Bangladesh. Although dealing in organs is illegal in Bangladesh, many poor people, particularly from rural areas, are compelled to sell their organs primarily to settle debts or for brief moments of financial respite, states the report. It suggests that out of around 120,000 organ transplants in 2014, approximately 12,000 were illegal. Two-thirds of these illegal transplants were of kidneys, followed by liver, heart, lung and pancreas transplants, respectively. “Once the law is enforced, grandparents, grandchildren and first cousins will be able to donate organs while the existing law allows only parents, spouses, children, siblings and blood-related aunts and uncles to donate. It is expected that the crisis of organs may decline as the number of donors have been increased,” says Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Vice Chancellor Kamrul Hasan Khan. mmmmm However, Sandhani National Eye Donation Society President Professor AKM Salek said the law did not go far enough to solve the crisis. “Complying with this law is difficult as cases show organs are matched with family members in only 50% of cases,” he said. “There are cases when people want to donate a kidney to a friend or someone else for humanitarian reasons. But the law creates a barrier.” The expert suggested that the government form a strong monitoring committee to stop illegal organ business. Doctors say over 200 kidney transplants were performed annually in the last few years at the 10 government and private hospitals approved by the ministry for carrying out such procedures. They are BSMMU, Birdem hospital, National Institute of Kidney Diseases and Urology, Kidney Foundation, Dhaka Medical College Hospital, Chittagong Medical College Hospital, Shyamoli Center for Kidney Diseases and Urology Hospital, Apollo Hospital, United Hospital and Popular Medical College and Hospital. According to BSSMU, about 1,600 kidneys have been replaced at the 10 approved hospitals in 34 years until 2016. Every year, around 45,000 patients are registered as patients suffering from kidney related diseases. Although the cost of kidney replacement is between Tk2-5 lakh in Bangladesh, some private hospitals, which are approved by the government for doing transplants, are doing it for a much higher cost. “Risk of death of from kidney disease is 10 times higher than death from heart attack. The law’s provision for relatives donating organs to patients will ensure safety, but the law should not act as a barrier for patients who fail to manage organs from relatives,” said Bangladesh Medical Association President Dr Mustafa Jalal Mohiuddin. According to the draft law, if a person gives false information about the donor, they can be punished with a maximum of two years of rigorous imprisonment or a maximum penalty of TK5 lakh or both. In addition, violating any of the other sections of the law, or for aiding or abetting anyone else to do so, can result in a maximum penalty of 3 years’ rigorous imprisonment and a fine of TK10 lakh or both. If a physician is convicted of this act, they will lose their licence. The law states that without government approval, no hospitals can conduct human organ transplantation in the country. It, however, also stipulates that public hospitals with specialised transplantation units can do the job without taking any approval. Repeated phone calls to the Health Minister Mohammad Nasim and the State Minister for Health Zahid Maleque for comments, went unanswered.
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