IN an appalling new development, the liver transplant facility at the Shaikh Zayed Hospital in Lahore was shut down when a string of post-operative deaths caught the attention of the Punjab Human Organ Transplant Authority. Most recently, a mother and her donor son passed away after undergoing a liver transplant at the facility. The regulatory body is now carrying out an investigation to ascertain why donors and patients keep dying after being admitted to the institution. In a recent report published in this paper, it was brought to light that the death of another donor in 2018 had led to the facility being shut down temporarily once before, but perhaps if strict action had been taken, many other lives could have been saved. The post-operative period after a liver transplant is a particularly sensitive phase and all necessary precaution must be taken to prevent infection, bleeding, blood clots and a host of other complications resulting from the surgery or the drugs prescribed. It seems that such preventative measures were not being taken by the unit. Globally, the number of patients waiting for a healthy liver is far greater than the number of people willing to donate, and incidents like this one present yet another blow to the lifelong efforts of campaigners such as the SIUT’s Dr Adib Rizvi and the late Abdul Sattar Edhi.
This is especially worrying in the context of countries like Pakistan that have not developed a culture in which live or deceased organ donation is anywhere close to the norm, and the number of transplants carried out legally have resultantly remained very low. These failures of medical practitioners also inadvertently strengthen the presence of a large racket for human organs. For instance, in 2016, 24 donors were rescued by the police from a locked-up apartment in Rawalpindi. They had agreed to sell their kidneys to those desperate to live in exchange for money to escape their own terrible poverty. What a cruel cycle to perpetuate.
Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2020