Negligence at PHOTA

Published July 11, 2024

THE impression that the state is being careless towards aspects of organ trade control is damaging. Recent news about the Punjab Human Organ Transplant Authority being without a regular head for a year and a half reeks of negligence, and the extension in its director general’s tenure for a sixth term violates the PHOTA Act, which mandates regular appointments of the head. Despite frequent news about the involvement of educated people, doctors and administrators in sinister networks, the body responsible for regulating organ transplants in Punjab finds itself at the centre of controversy, with allegations of favouritism. Moreover, the current DG, in disregard of the apparent conflict of interest involved, reportedly heads the urology department at a local hospital too. Last year, the Punjab health department shortlisted 16 candidates for the job but the effort came to naught.

More troubling is the fact that PHOTA appears compromised at a time when organ trafficking is at a significant scale in Punjab, which has witnessed an upsurge in illicit transplants over the past year. The racket thrives in times of economic distress and Pakistan’s present situation is one that enables exploitation. Hence, the necessary manpower and a non-controversial, scrupulous administrator are the need of the hour to monitor evil elements and eliminate human organ sale. The onus for PHOTA’s state falls on the government; it has not only put the physical security of citizens at risk but also emboldened corrupt forces and odious networks to operate with impunity. What this country needs is a coordinated, vigilant and effective approach led by experienced, upright supervisors. Lawmakers cannot leave any room for Pakistan to revert to its earlier avatar of an organ tourism destination. Organ trafficking dehumanises society, particularly the poor, and feeds a global black market. Activists and the medical fraternity need to keep the pressure on lawmakers to fortify PHOTA and free it of all interference.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2024

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