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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has sought legislation to award up to 14-year jail term for illegal sale of organs and ordered the government to also implement other recommendations of a committee constituted to check illegal sale and transplantation of kidneys.

A three-judge SC bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, asked the federal and provincial governments to ensure that organ transplantation is conducted only at establishments recognised under the transplantation act and rules, while for punishing offenders under the general rules a new Section 374-A be inserted in the Pakistan Penal Code through an act of parliament providing for a maximum punishment of 14 years with a fine of Rs10 million for commercial dealings in human organ, tissue and cells etc.

Take a look: Of human organs, desperate poverty and greed

The court ordered implementation of all recommendations suggested by the committee while disposing of a joint petition moved by rights activists, educationists, Islamic scholars, journalists and medical practitioners who had sought court’s direction for devising rules and protocols to prevent flagrant violation of the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissue Act (HOTA), 2010 in the country.

Seeks legislation to award up to 14-year jail term for organ trade

The committee, which was constituted on the SC orders, comprised Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplant (SIUT) director Dr Syed Adibul Hasan Rizvi, Transplantation Society of Pakistan general secretary Dr Mirza Naqi Zafar, Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan Secretary Dr Mohammad Raheem Awan, Additional Attorney General Nayyar Abbas Rizvi, senior counsel Muneer A. Malik and others.

Similarly, the committee recommended that rules be amended to provide that all brain deaths diagnosed by competent professionals be reported to the Human Organ Transplantation Authority (HOTA) and care of brain death person be made mandatory as per international protocols till the family decided for or against donation.

The committee asked the federal and provincial governments to take measures to strengthen and enhance the capacity of respective HOTAs and monitoring committees.

According to the recommendations, the governments should proactively promote deceased organ donation by establishing protocols consistent with international standards defining criteria establishing when brain dead. The governments should recognise that the state is duty bound to ameliorate poverty and exploitation that compels a person to agree for the sale his or her organs.

The governments should also establish vigilance committees having the capacity to undertake immediate action against any breach of transplantation laws and to promptly coordinate with the monitoring authorities. And in case of brain death donors, the respective police surgeons should provide guidelines of the procedures to be followed before removing organs of deceased donors and in situations where medico-legal cases were pending police surgeons be made part of the procedures.

Encourage whistleblowers

To encourage victims to come forward as whistleblowers, law-enforcement agencies and prosecutors ought to establish guidelines about when to prosecute the donor whistleblower or when to make them a witness against others charged with partaking in unlawful transplants or aiding, assisting or abetting such activity.

The respective HOTAs must establish round-the-clock communication centres where violations can be reported, while the monitoring authority secretary should be required to dispose of complaints within 24 hours.

Regular audit, registration

All monitoring authorities should ensure that the evaluation committees of the recognised establishments enjoy credibility and shall periodically audit their decisions.

The monitoring authority while granting registration or renewal should reserve the right to review the amount charged by a registered establishment according to prescribed criteria and to audit the transplant data and accounts maintained by the establishment.

Registration and recognition should be in respect of designated premises where organs and tissue / cells may be removed or transplanted and recognised establishment may only operate from the designated premises. A fresh registration shall be required when an establishment opens, changes or add up place for its operation.

And at the time of grant of registration to an establishment and at the time of renewal of the registration by the monitoring authority, the establishment must obtain a no-objection certificate of the relevant healthcare commission.

The recommendations suggested institutionalisation of deceased donor programme to enable all citizens desiring to join the deceased donor programme to exercise the option of making a lifetime gift of such organs and to publicly recognise the families of the deceased donors through the award of medals and certificates.

Likewise, the recommendations asked media regulators and journalists’ professional bodies, like the Pakistan Electronic Media Authority, All Pakistan Newspapers Society, Council for Pakistan Newspaper Editors, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, and Pakistan Television to sensitise general public on the imperatives of deceased organ donation, to educate the public that donation of organs is followed in all Islamic countries, to expose the sale and illegal transplantation of organs and to encourage the mass media to disseminate public service messages promoting deceased organ donation.

Database of donors, recipients

For the purpose of deceased organ donation, HOTAs should establish national and provincial registries at state expense to create a deceased donor database and bank, a database of potential recipients and to prescribe methods for the safe and efficient harvesting of such organs and for their equitable allocation and transplantation.

Public hospitals should provide free of cost transplantation to all needy patients and provide lifelong care to living donors and recipients.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2018