Countries of the South have become a haven for rich patients of the north and south; organs are bought from the poor to be inserted into the rich. This makes the poor of India and Pakistan more vulnerable to exploitation because technical facilities and expertise for organ transplant exist there. Many attempts have been made to remedy the situation. Will the new Law in Pakistan prove adequate in safeguarding the poor from being exploited?


In these grim times, it is heartening that positive developments also take place in Pakistan. These should be appreciated and credit must be given to those whose efforts make this possible. One such event was the passage of the organ law by the Senate last week. Adopted by National Assembly in November 2009, the Human Organ and Tissue Transplantation Act will become law when it is signed by the president.


As pointed out by Dr Adib Rizvi, president of the Transplantation Society of Pakistan, the unethical practice of the blatant sale of human organs has declined considerably since the transplantation ordinance was first promulgated in 2007. Until this step was taken, Pakistan had acquired the dubious reputation of being the hub of kidney tourism thanks to some unscrupulous surgeons who exploited poverty-stricken donors to buy their organs for a pittance and transplant these in desperate foreigners with end-stage kidney failure for fabulous amounts.


The law has banned this, and organs from a living unrelated donor can now be taken under very stringent conditions. In no case is a financial transaction allowed. No foreigner can have an organ transplantation in Pakistan. With an implementation mechanism in place, the law has proved to be effective. But there is no room for complacency and all concerned should remain alert to pre-empt a return to the earlier situation.


The need now is to create public awareness about deceased organ donation that could help meet the growing need for human organs. There is not enough public awareness on this count. The humanitarian dimension, the health aspect and the conditions under which organs can be obtained need to be highlighted. The Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation that pioneered live related organ donation on a big scale in the country should step up its campaign with regard to deceased organ donation.


(Dawn Editorial; February 16, 2010) 

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