Transplant scandal

 
February 22, 2020

In 2010 after a long struggle, a law banning the sale of human organs was passed by parliament and efforts begun to implement it. Before this Pakistan had turned into a global market place where...

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In 2010 after a long struggle, a law banning the sale of human organs was passed by parliament and efforts begun to implement it. Before this Pakistan had turned into a global market place where cheap organs could be bought from impoverished donors and sold to wealthy recipients. The law curbed the trade, but it appears it did not stop it. A new scandal has broken out concerning a latest kidney transplant after the death of Hira Sharif, the adult daughter of comedian Omer Sharif. The young woman apparently underwent a kidney transplant using illegally acquired organs with the surgery carried out by a Dr Fawad Mumtaz at an unknown facility in Azad Kashmir. The doctor had charged Rs3.4 million for the surgery. Unfortunately, it went wrong. Hira Sharif had to be rushed to a hospital in Lahore where she subsequently passed away.

The FIA and the Human Organ Transplant Authority have been attempting to track down the doctor who has left his Lahore home for an unknown location. The same doctor had also been arrested in 2017 after a patient from Jordan died during an illegal kidney transplant; the doctor was jailed for a short time. He obtained bail in 2018, and it appears has continued his activities. The law as it currently stands states that an organ cannot be purchased but must be donated willingly, preferably by a blood relative or other person with links to the patient. It is obvious however that the simple formula of supply and demand is driving forward the trade. There are too few kidneys or other organs available from donors and too many who require them. Family members are often unwilling to donate.

The question of why Dr Fawad served such a short time in jail is one matter for investigation. The other issue is to follow the example of other countries including Iran and Saudi Arabia which promote donations after death. While a provision for this exists under the law, there are very few donors willing to save another life after they have lost their own. Experts at SIUT, who were instrumental in the passage of the law, say this shortage of organs can only be overcome by encouraging donation after death. This is a matter that needs to be taken up. What is vital however is that unscrupulous physicians engaged in removing kidneys from desperate persons struggling to survive and selling them at exorbitant rates to wealthy patients be stopped in their tracks. It is obvious that there are many involved in this trade. There are others too and loopholes in the law and in police actions need to be plugged to ensure the law in fully implemented and guarantees the welfare of all citizens.



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