THE burden of chronic kidney disease is on the rise in Bangladesh. According to official sources, there are one and half crore patients with long term kidney diseases in the country. Annually, 10,000 end stage kidney patients requiring transplant suffer as the organ transplant law does not serve the interest of the patients. In terms of treatment, there are only two options open for an end-stage kidney patients — dialysis and transplantation. At the moment, dialysis is an expensive medical procedure and the existing law makes it difficult for patients to find suitable donor. In this context, health experts at an event in the capital urged the government, as reported in New Age on Monday, to amend the law to expand donor group to include extended family and well wishers. The current law allows donation of kidneys by blood-related relatives — father, mother, siblings, children, maternal and paternal uncles or aunts and spouses. Urologists, nephrologists and other medical experts attending patients with renal diseases present at the event asked the government to relax the law considering changes in the family structure and the fact that donating one of the two good kidneys does not affect the donor’s health. The law therefore needs to be amended to make it easier for patients to get kidney donors even from non relatives.
The stated legal flaw left patient with no option but to opt for dialysis. However, the hospitals equipped with dialysis centre charge more than an everyday patient could afford. Media has extensively reported on the ways private sector health facilities making profits of patients requiring regular dialysis. In the district level, diagnostic and treatment facilities for kidney patients are inadequate. Therefore, rural patients often fall victim to this profit seeking clinics in the city. Public hospitals with dialysis facilities are also plagued with irregularities. There are allegations that patients at the 100-bed National Institute of Kidney Diseases and Urology have to pay to hospital employees for a non-paying bed. Public health experts have also mentioned that the number of physicians, surgeons and nurses to provide care to the existing kidney patients is inadequate. The prevailing treatment situation prompts some to travel abroad for kidney transplant draining the foreign currency reserve. In what follows, it is not just the review of the organ transplant act is needed to ensure treatment for kidney patients, the ministry of health and family welfare needs to draft a comprehensive plan addressing issue raised above.
Every year many people die of kidney failure because they could not get access to the right medical care which includes transplant and dialysis. There could be many more potential donors within the country if only the law would allow non relatives to donate kidneys as is practised in other countries. Restricting the donor group to combat the illegal organ trade, the government is risking the lives of the patients when instead it should ensure that the law enforcement agencies are more vigilant and efficient in clamping down on those involved in it.
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