Kidney poser continues
As patients and public await report by 5-member
the debate on human organ transplantation continues, the question on the
lips of hundreds of persons whose lives now hang in the balance, as they
wait for the final verdict of the five-member Committee appointed to
investigate the kidney racket involving Indian patients and Lankan
surgeons, is what happenes next.
According to Indian media reports at least six hospitals in Sri Lanka
had been involved in illegal kidney transplant surgeries using 'paid'
for kidneys from Indians coming here as 'donors'. The news was published
in the Indian media recently.
The issue which earned dubious honour of headline news in almost all
local media, both print and electronic, has raised several important
questions among the public and medical circles.
The procedure itself is not new, since Sri Lanka already has a Human
Tissue Transplantation Act introduced several years ago, which permits
local surgeons to perform transplant operations on critically ill
patients who need to replace damaged organs.
What has made this an overnight public issue is perhaps the decision
to put on hold the pending transplant surgeries of several foreign
patients (reportedly 29) awaiting surgery in the six hospitals now under
Cabinet Spokesman and Health Minister, Dr Rajitha Seneratne,
responding to public outcry last week appointed a five-member Committee
to investigate the matter and submit their findings as soon as possible.
The report, which was expected by Friday has now been postponed till
the end of this week. Until then all transplants on foreign nationals
have been put on hold.
Donating kidneys for money
is on the rise
Pic: Courtesy The Hindu
Chairman of the five-member Committee, Dr Jayasundara Bandara said,
"One cannot rush these matters, as this is an important issue concerning
"We are still collecting information as we don't have sufficient
information to make up a complete report." Asked to explain the
objective of the report, he said the two main objectives were:
1) If the operations were compatible with the existing legislation
relating to transplant surgeries or whether there had been a deviation
2) If there had been a deviation who was responsible.
"The Health Ministry is responsible for all hospitals that perform
these surgeries, whether private of state. We need to go into the matter
carefully," he said.
Private Hospitals Association
A recent statement issued by the Private Hospitals Association, and
published in the newspapers stated, "Member hospitals of the Association
perform a variety of surgeries for local and foreign patients. Kidney
transplant is one such surgery performed in these hospitals. Organ
Transplant surgeries comes under the purview of the Transplant of Human
Tissue Act ( No 48 of 1987) Sri Lanka. As such, the hospitals comply
with rigorous regulatory and legal procedures as established by the
Ministry of Health. As such surgeries are authorised by the Ministry of
Health prior to surgery. All members abide by this procedure."
Responding to this statement, Dr Bandara said, "Just because someone
makes a statement, we cannot accept it.
"We need to find out if it is true and how accurate it is. We are
investigating into this and seeing if the procedure that was followed
was within the legislative framework as stated."
The Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) when contacted
repeated what it said in the article titled, 'Whose kidney is it?'
published in the Sunday Observer last week. GMOA spokesperson, Dr Navin
de Zoysa reiterating his statement said, "Human tissue transplant is a
complex issue. Whether the donor is living or is a cadaver, it raises
several ethical questions. But they need to be sorted out soon. We are
glad a special committee has been set up to investigate the matter. If
there are any doctors who have violated medical ethics they should be
punished. But any investigation must be done with transparency so that
we know exactly what is going on. At the same time a decision on how
soon patients waiting for such transplants with surgeries now on hold,
must be made quickly. It is not like constructing a road or a building
which can be put on hold indefinitely.
These are people for whom time is running out and every minute counts
if their own organs have packed up. These surgeries should commence
without further delay or they could die."
Commenting on the existing law, he said, "The Human Tissue Transplant
Act No: 48, is an antiquated law passed in 1987. It needs to be revised,
updated and brought in line with present trends especially now that the
demand for transplants has surged- especially for kidneys in our own
country where so many suffer from chronic kidney disease.
If protocol and guidelines have to changed to do this, then this must
be done as soon as possible. It is the responsibility of the Health
Ministry to take this initiative."
He said the GMOA was willing to co-operate with the government and
the Health Ministry to achieve this end. "But any investigation, as well
as new protocol and guidelines regarding transplant procedure must be
transparent and carefully monitored by the Ministry to ensure legal
boundaries are not violated".
The Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) has initiated independent
investigations on the matter, on the instructions of the IGP, following
a request by the Director General Of Health Services, Dr P.G. Maheepala..
Media spokesman ASP Ruwan Gunasekera said "The CCD commenced
investigations under the direction of ASP Nuwan Wedasinghe, director CCD.
The investigations are still in the initial stage. We cannot comment on
Asked what areas the investigations would cover, he said, "Our focus
is to investigate the criminal background of those involved."
Information officer of the Indian High Commission Ms Eisha Srivastava
said, "We have still not received a communiqué from the Sri Lankan
Government on this matter, nor have we been approached by the Lankan
All our information so far has been limited to media reports and I
don't want to comment on such reports."