THE demand for the institution of an independent government agency to regulate organ donation and transplantation that came up at a conference that Gonoshasthaya Nagar Hospital organised on Wednesday appears to be what deserves an immediate government attention. In the absence of an independent agency to oversee organ donation and transplantation, as physicians and activists say, an illegal organ trade takes place which is said to benefit mostly the people who can buy organs illegally by forging relationship documents. The law lays out that only close relatives can be donors of organs for transplantation. There have been instances of transplantation where the rich have bought organs from donors falsifying the relation between them. This all happens because of the absence of an independent, well-functioning regulatory agency. The law also stipulates the formation of a national cadaveric committee to oversee human organ transplantation, visit transplantation activities and to advise the government on organ transplantation. But no such committee has yet been formed, leaving organ donation and transplantation in chaos of a sort.
Studies show that about 20 million suffering from kidney diseases — with at least 10,000 requiring transplantation — and half a million more suffer from corneal diseases. The need for organ transplantation, therefore, grows with time, but the culture of organ donation has not been well established, resulting in the death of 35,000 from kidney failure every year. Against the demand for about 10,000 kidney transplants, only around 100 people can, on an average, manage kidneys from their relatives for transplantation. Cornea transplantation is at a slightly satisfactory level because it has increased three times since 2009. Such a chaotic situation, coupled with the lack of organ donation culture, could be drastically arrested if such a committee works properly. In many countries, organ donation and transplantation are regulated and facilitated by government agencies that oversee cadaveric and other organ donation. The lack in capabilities of local hospitals also forces people to go abroad for transplantation which is costly. As a result, experts estimate that Bangladesh loses Tk 8,000 crore in foreign currencies every year as people go to transplant organs, mostly kidneys, in foreign countries.
The government must, therefore, institute the stipulated national committee to oversee organ donation and transplantation and strengthen it in a way so that it can run awareness programmes, work with religious leaders to promote donation and enforce the law against illegal organ trade. Local hospitals must also be strengthened to better deal with organ transplantation.
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