KARACHI: Bringing people to a level of awareness that they opt for the deceased organ donation programme is the only way to effectively curb growing illegal organ trade.

This requires a proactive role of the state having the responsibility to implement the relevant law and show greater commitment towards public health and the media industry that must fulfil its corporate social responsibility.

These points were raised at a press conference by members of a coordination committee set up by the Supreme Court during the hearing of a suo motu case on illegal kidney transplants here at the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) on Saturday.

Two-day national conference on illegal organ transplant concludes

The committee — headed by SIUT director Prof Adib Rizvi and comprising Prof Dr Anwar Naqvi of the SIUT, Advocate Muneer A. Malik, Additional Attorney General Syed Nayyar Abbas Rizvi, Law and Justice Commission Secretary Raheem Awan and Transplantation Society of Pakistan’s General Secretary Dr Mirza Naqi Zafar — was tasked to prepare recommendations on how to check illegal transplants.

The presser also marked the conclusion of a two-day national conference — ‘Illegal transplant of organs and promotion of deceased organ donation in Pakistan’ — organised under the aegis of the Law and Justice Commission in collaboration with the SIUT to look deeper into the issue with the help of experts representing a cross section of society who gave their input on the subject.

A growing gap

Summarising the long deliberations and recommendations in a nutshell, Prof Adib Rizvi said: “I am sorry to say that illegal organ transplants will continue unless we have a comprehensive dedicated deceased organ donation programme in place in the country. It’s a matter of a huge gap between patient in need of organ transplants and fewer availability of the life-saving resource.”

He regretted that the deceased donor programme couldn’t take off. “We were told [by the government] to start living organ donation programme and that the deceased donor programme would gradually take off. Forty years have passed but there has been no progress on the latter.”

He appreciated the efforts of Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar and all experts who took time out and deliberated on preparing a draft of recommendations.

“It’s the first time that all stakeholders had gathered on one platform to work out a national and provincial plan on deceased organ donation. We have done our job and now it’s up to the court to approve them and propagate them,” he informed the audience.

Raheem Awan, the secretary of Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan, briefed the audience about the committee’s consultation process held in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore.

Replying to questions, Muneer A. Malik said that there was a consensus among the participants that the law on organ transplants existed but the question was how to effectively implement it.

The problem at the bottom, the experts said, was the growing demand for transplants as more and more patients suffered from end-stage organ failure and availability of fewer life-saving resource, encouraging traffickers to take advantage of the situation by exploiting the poor and patient families in need.

Organ trafficking, they pointed out, could only effectively be curbed through popularising the concept of cadaveric donation.

Need to promote cadaveric donation

A copy of the draft recommendations shows that experts agreed that the most effective way to curb commercialisation and sale of organs is to promote cadaveric donation in accordance with protocols which are internationally accepted and are credible to the family of the deceased donor.

“National and provincial registries should be established at state expense to create a deceased donor database and bank, a database of potential recipients and to prescribe methods for safe and efficient harvesting of such organs.

“At the same time a transparent system for their equitable allocation and transplantation needs to be put in place. Appropriate rules can be made under the existing national and provincial legislation on transplantation of organs and tissues.

“The state should support public hospitals in providing free of cost transplantation to all patients and provide lifelong care to donors and recipients and the capacity of all monitoring authorities should be exponentially enhanced,” it said.

The experts also suggested that the state should institute mechanisms that enable citizens desiring to join the deceased donor programme to exercise the option of making a lifetime gift of such organs.

There was also a suggestion that transplant activities conducted at places other than establishments recognised under the Transplantation Acts and Rules be punished under the regular penal laws for which an additional section be added in the Pakistan Penal Code.

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2018