Source: Arab News.com
How to ensure payments to donors do not end up looking like a market in body parts?
The idea that there are people so poor that they have to resort to what is in effect selling a kidney is repugnant. That it happens in several Third World countries does not make it any less unacceptable. It is illegal in the US, the UK and most “First World” countries for the very good reason that putting a price on human organs inevitably exploits poor people desperate for money.
Earlier this year, the lid was blown off an illegal trade in South Africa in which the kidneys of poor Brazilians and Romanians were being harvested to treat rich, sick Israelis. The international media, including the Arab media, were quick to expose and condemn the scandal, and rightly so.
The fact that there is little risk to healthy people who donate one of their kidneys and that this is supposed to be a willing donation makes no difference. If people are extremely poor, their “willingness” to part with a kidney has to be questioned, indeed doubted. How willing can a person be when he is desperate? No one should need to have to hand over a kidney because he is poor.
Payments to kidney donors were authorized in 2006 for sound medical reasons — they were not enough of them to meet the growing need for transplants. This seemed a good way of encouraging donors. But it was realized that this could end up looking like a market in body parts, so it was decided that the payment was not to be for the kidney but as a thank-you for acting so charitably. In the view of many, it is a play on word, which deceives no one.
This is not the only disturbing aspect to the treatment of kidney patients in many Third World countries.
As to the issue of finding enough kidney donors to meet the demand, it is not just a Saudi one. In the US, there are currently 90,000 Americans waiting for a transplant. Every day over a dozen die because of the lack of donors. Since Saudi Arabia’s first renal transplant in 1979, there have been rapid advances in the field (as has been the case in other organ transplant operations). The Kingdom now has the highest reported living kidney donor transplant rate in the world.
Individuals and philanthropists in the Kingdom have begun a concerted campaign in favor of organ donation. They have begun educating the people of the levels of safety in being a donor, and the blessings he would receive here and the Hereafter. Their efforts have been backed by the ulema or scholars, who have said that donating organs is not against religion.
In face of this growing awareness, the government, as part of its efforts to help patients who need organ transplants, has ordered incentives to both the recipients and the donors. The incentives are in the form of discounted tickets, excess medical baggage and an increase in pension in the event of poor health among others. This is the government’s way of saying that they care.
In no way is the selling of any body parts encouraged in the Kingdom. Selling them or paying for them is not acceptable. It is too much like organ trafficking. What can be done is a far greater use of publicity campaigns to encourage people to freely donate. It needs to be pursued.