Opposition supports call for legislation for the procuring of human organs
Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
The Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has thrown its support behind the call for legislation to allow for the harvesting of human organs for the purposes of transplantation.
While admitting that there are dangers, two senior members of the JLP, who are medical doctors, said transplantation is a modern part of the medical profession that should be pursued locally.
Dr Ken Baugh, Opposition spokesman on health and quality of life, told The Sunday Gleaner that the JLP would support the passage of legislation paving the way for harvesting of organs in Jamaica.
"There is no question in my mind that Jamaica needs to upgrade its system for the transplantation of kidneys especially," said Baugh who is a general surgeon.
"I really believe that we need to look at modernising, upgrading and making it more accessible to the public."
Baugh argued that the push towards legalising the harvesting of organs must be a public-private sector partnership.
"In public hospitals, the nephrologists and urologists should put a plan together for the Government to facilitate their work. That would inform the relevant legislation," said Baugh.
The health and quality of life spokesman also argued that the matter should be treated with some urgency because lives hang in the balance.
not a replacement
"A lot of people die before they get on to the list for dialysis," he said while stressing that transplantation should never be seen as a replacement for dialysis.
"It will be complementary to it."
In the meantime, JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang argued that despite the potential dangers, organ harvesting for transplantation is the way to go.
"It is a necessary part of modern medicine. The scope for abuse exists, so we will have to be careful with the crafting of the legislation," said Chang
He told our news team that extra care has to be taken when crafting the provisions to govern the procuring of organs particularly because of the country's dire economic conditions.
"It is abused in some countries and given our current socio-economic circumstances, the potential to abuse something that can earn income exits," said Chang, in reference to the black markets that have flourished in some countries which allow organ harvesting.
In those countries, organs are sometimes illegally harvested and sold to the highest bidders.
"We would have to craft the legislation correctly so we don't leave any space for abuse," Chang added as he joined the growing debate.
back on the front burner
Legislation to allow the transplanting of human organs was put back on the front burner at a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum.
At the round table, prominent nephrologists advocated for the use of kidney transplants to reduce the increasing number of kidney-disease sufferers awaiting dialysis.
Transplantation, they said, would lower treatment costs, improve patient care and reduce the number of persons who die from the disease.
"It is far cheaper to transplant patients than to keep them on dialysis (as) some are on dialysis for up to 35 years," said Professor Everard N. Barton, director of the Caribbean Institute of Nephrology based at the University of the West Indies, Mona.
Barton explained that transplantation cost becomes cheaper after two and a half years when compared with dialysis.
He said it would significantly reduce the strain on the already overburdened public-health system, cut the waiting list for dialysis and reduce the likelihood of patients dying.
Figures from the Caribbean Institute of Nephrology show there were approximately 1,835 persons suffering from kidney disease in Jamaica at the end of last year.
But the number of kidney-disease sufferers could be higher, as Barton noted that data collection, especially in rural areas, is not reliable.
Consultant internist and nephrologist Dr Adedamola Soyibo used the Gleaner Editors' Forum to argue that the public could be encouraged through sensitisation to donate their organs.
He advanced that if persons were to wear wristbands engraved, 'I am an organ donor', it would facilitate easy procurement of an organ in the event of a motor-vehicle crash or gunshot wound.
Don't miss the health ministry's position on this issue in The Sunday Gleaner next week.