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KARACHI, March 18: Responding to the initiative of doctors concerned about ongoing illegal human kidney trade, the Human Organ Transplantation Authority has asked the federal investigation agency, the Punjab government’s health department and police to investigate the matter without delay.

A source in the HOTA told Dawn on Tuesday that HOTA administrator, retired Maj-Gen A.Q. Usmani, took serious notice of the press reports and contents of an email from the Middle Eastern physicians received in Karachi about illegal human organ transplantations. He requested the FIA Director-General, the Punjab IG and the health secretary to investigate and move immediately against the quarters being named for their alleged involvement in human kidney transplantations at various medical institutions in violation of the Transplantation of Human Organ and Tissues Ordinance, 2007, promulgated by the President of Pakistan last year.

The source said that Maj-Gen Usmani also received the email forwarded by a Karachi-based urological surgeon. The email had originated from the president of the Middle East Society for Organ Transplantation (MESOT), Dr Mustafa Al-Mousawi.

Dr Mustafa says that he has recently come across a Kuwaiti who underwent transplant surgery at a centre in Lahore. He expresses the view that perhaps the Pakistani government and health authorities have been unable to do the needful against the illegal commercial kidney transplantations, involving unrelated donations from locals. He very precisely says that such activities should be checked in a foolproof manner, otherwise many centres would continue this malpractice despite the law (Transplantation of Human Organ and Tissues Ordinance, 2007) and that would undermine the efforts to ban the living unrelated donation transplantation in Kuwait and other neighbouring countries.

The source said that Maj-Gen Usmani also tried to reach some of the doctors or relevant facilitators over cellular phones mentioned in Dr Mustafa’s email, which was also forwarded to some representatives of the World Health Organisation, but without any positive outcome.

One of them, however, told the administrator that he was not a doctor by profession, the source said, adding that he belonged to Karachi but was currently stationed in Lahore.

When contacted by Dawn, the HOTA administrator said that he had already forwarded Dr Mustafa’s observations to the law-enforcing and investigation agencies and he would adopt the legal course of action only after things were substantiated by police and the FIA in their reports.

Maj-Gen Usmani said that he could not say with certainty that the poor were not being exploited and no illegal kidney transplantation was taking place in the country. However, he added, such cases could at present be counted on fingers.

Under the transplant ordinance, he said, no doctor or medical facility could pursue the non-relative donors of Pakistani origin for organ transplantation. Patients from abroad, if they bring a donor other than a Pakistani, can avail themselves of the expertise and theatres available in the country, but that too would not go unregistered. Pakistani medical practitioners, including surgeons, were legally bound to inform the HOTA about the transplants they were carrying out in the country, he said, adding that one patient from a Central Asian country had come along her relative donor and was facilitated duly at one of the HOTA-approved centres in the country.

HOTA’s recognition

The administrator said that recognition granted on an ad hoc basis to a medical institution in Rawalpindi/Islamabad had been withheld by the HOTA as some enquiry and legal actions were continuing against it for an alleged violation of the ordinance.

In reply to a question, he said that names of about 34 medical institutions located in Karachi, Multan, Lahore, Rawalpindi/Islamabad and Bahawalpur had been approved for award of permanent recognition by the Human Organ Transplant Monitoring Authority in a meeting held with the federal health minister in the chair on Feb 26.

The necessary gazette notification would also been made soon, he said, adding that four to five institutions earlier given the interim recognition had been found unfit for transplantation purposes and as such their recognition were being withdrawn.

Maj-Geneal Usmani said that while the authority was open to new institutions seeking transplant facilities, the government had all authority to inspect the recognised institutions at any later stage later and if found necessary would withdraw the recognition.