By Justina Auta
Transplant Association of Nigeria (TAN) called for a law on Tuesday in Abuja to regulate the donation of human organs.
This, it said, would promote donation of human organs, advance organ transplant, reduce mortality and curb medical tourism outside Nigeria.
The association called for the law at its fifth biennial scientific conference which has “Advancing organ transplantation in Nigeria: The journey so far’’ as its theme.
In a paper he delivered to highlight the importance of organ transplantation, Prof. Adewale Akinsola, a Consultant Nephrologist, noted that many patients had died while waiting for organ donation and transplant.
“ We need to review our organ transplantation laws and regulations; we need to engage lawyers, Civil Society Organisations, and re-examine the laws to establish what to present to government.
“We need to be stringent on `consent’ requirement given while alive or delayed to the point of death.
“While alive, an individual might have consented to donate his or her kidneys upon his or her death, but the family has responsibility at the end of the day and might not give consent,’’ he noted.
Akinsola also charged government to create public awareness on the importance of deceased’s organ donation and to create a health insurance scheme that would cover treatment for some terminal diseases at subsidised rates.
In another presentation, Prof. Fatiu Arogundade, TAN President, listed funding, organ sourcing, poor infrastructure as some of the challenges militating against organ transplantation in Nigeria.
He also said that the enactment of a law to promote deceased’s organ donation would reduce the number of persons awaiting organ transplantation, save lives and improve peoples’ health statuses.
“We have x-rayed and discussed about transplantation generally and we know things have improved a little bit.
“There are major challenges such as funding of transplantation, organ sourcing, and infrastructure development, however.
“The National Health Act of 2008 has already proposed mechanisms for the law and all we need is for stakeholders to come together and be coordinated by the Federal Ministry of Health.
“We will be able to get all institutions involved together and the National Tertiary Health Commission will be able to coordinate organ harvesting from willing donors.
“The structure has to be put in place for us to organise deceased’s donation. If we overcome the problem of funding, organ sourcing other infrastructural challenges, we would overcome,’’ he said.
Arogundade said Nigeria currently has 16 kidney centres and stressed the need for the establishment of more to discourage medical tourism.
Additional centres would improve access to quality healthcare services and would make Nigeria to remain relevant in the comity of organ transplantation countries, he submitted.
In his own presentation, Dr Olalekan Olatise, Chief Medical Director of a private kidney centre, noted that notwithstanding the dearth of organ donation globally, the success rate of organ transplantation in Nigeria was good.
“Transplant physician success rate is good. We just need more sensitisation and advocacy in Nigeria so that Nigerians can know that they can have their transplant done in Nigeria.
“It is essential that we observe all the ethics of transplantation and make sure that organ recipients and donors know exactly what to do and take all precautions to ensure that we do no harm,’’ he said.
According to Olatise, there is the need to improve organ transplant action in Nigeria.
He said Nigeria also needed to consolidate and kick-start other areas such as liver, pancreatic, lungs and heart transplantation.
“We need legislative backing. We need to have laws in place to ensure that transplantation is done in a safe environment, following all the ethics and rules and making sure we observe best practices.
“There is the need for the National Assembly to enact appropriate laws in this area. We think there are some gaps in the 2014 National Health Act that can be improved upon,’’ Olatise stressed. (NAN)