Bill weakening Pakistan’s organ trade law withdrawn

January 12th, 2009 - 5:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Jan 12 (IANS) A bill that would have weakened Pakistan’s organ trade law has been withdrawn by its movers in parliament, even as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that the out-of-pocket health expenditure in Pakistan stands at 71 percent and is a burden for the poor.The bill for amending the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Ordinance 2007 was withdrawn by its movers at a meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Health.

Committee chairman Nadeem Ahsan told the Dawn newspaper this was done after a presentation by the health ministry and the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation pointed to the adverse effects of the bill that he and two others had moved.

The bill had proposed five amendments, including permission for donation to foreigners, a practice that had earned Pakistan the sobriquet of being an “organ bazaar”. The proposed amendment had sought a 10 percent quota for donations to foreigners in medical emergencies.

“Do we intend to have an organ quota much like we had the textile quota, transferable and saleable among hospitals or sold at a higher price when there is more demand than supply?” the committee was asked during the presentation.

Other amendments related to donations to half-brothers and half-sisters, donation by non-blood relatives and non-relatives in emergencies and the manner in which a donor was to be compensated in case the recipient was not in a position to pay.

“The amendments were opposed on the grounds that transplantations were not emergency procedures and the suggested changes would envisage commercial dealings and promote financial deals between buyers and sellers of human organs,” Dawn reported Monday.

Human Organs Transplant Authority Administrator Maj. Gen. Abdul Qadir Usmani (retired) has welcomed the withdrawal.

He said that prior to the promulgation of the law, 2,000 transplants had been carried out in the country and 1,500 of the recipients were foreigners.

In the 15 months since the law was promulgated in September 2007, about 800 transplants have been done, of which 96 percent were donations to relatives and four percent to non-relatives.

According to the WHO report, released in Rawalpindi Sunday, Pakistan’s unregulated private sector delivers a high proportion of health services and there is a great discrepancy in the quality of services.

Those who can only afford to pay a little usually get the poorest quality services, the report says.

In rural areas, very poor women and men avail government services as they can afford only those, the report says, adding these people visit private doctors as a last resort, and sometimes because of a referral made by the government doctor.

The report says a portrait of the “average” Pakistani woman indicates that she is illiterate and has five children, of whom those under three years old are malnourished. She works 15 hours a day and is anaemic and gives birth to low-weight babies.

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