NEWS of the Century — Zardari donates body organs

SLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday became the first president to donate all his body organs after signing a bill to enact a law to regulate transplant of human organs in the country.

The president made the announcement of donating his whole body after he inked the document at a ceremony held at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, also attended among others by federal ministers and health experts.

President Zardari said he took the decision in light of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s philosophy of living for others. The president said Pakistan was singled out in the world community due to the notorious trade of transplant of body organs and urged parliament and doctors to create an awareness about the issue among the masses.

He asked the doctors’ community to inform the government in case of any violation and help save precious lives. “No law can be effective without people’s support,” the president said and sought the help of the masses in countering the illegal trade.

The president said, “Pakistanis were a responsible nation and known for being thoughtful, forgiving and loving.” He said only a small mindset was bringing a bad name to the country. “What we look for is discipline of mind,” he added.

Health Minister Shahabuddin said in Pakistan over 50,000 die each year because of kidney, 10,000 because of liver and 6,500 of heart failure and the new legislation would go a long way in legalising the serious humanitarian issue.

He said organ transplant was also permitted in the religion and was legal in countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon and Turkey. He said now 42 institutions across the country had been authorised to conduct transplants.

President Transplant Society of Pakistan Dr Adeebul Hassan Rizvi said the bill would bring hope for over 50,000 people but would also define the art of transplantation. He lauded the government for taking a stand against the organ mafia that did not want any legislation and hoped the country would leave behind its reputation of being an “organ bazaar”.

The signing ceremony was attended by Minister for Health Makhdoom Shahabuddin, Minister for Water and Power Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Minister for Commerce Amin Fahim, Minister for Food Nazar Mohammad Gondal and Minister of State for Interior Tasneem Qureshi.

APP adds: The law that now makes sale and unauthorised transplant of body organs punishable with up to 10 years in prison provides for a regulatory mechanism, including a high-level federal monitoring authority and evaluation committees, for the removal, storage and transplantation of human organs and tissues for therapeutic purposes.

The president said by using modern technology, Pakistan can be made a better place to live in and appreciated the political consensus evolved to make the legislation a success. Earlier, the president gave his assent to the bill, making it into a law with immediate effect.

The new legislation prohibits the practice of organs’ sale to foreigners and will allow a voluntary organ or tissue donation by at least an 18-year-old living donor to any other genetically and legally related person, who is a close relative such as a parent, son, daughter, sister, brother and spouse, with authorization from an evaluation committee of specialists in the field helped by local notables to be set up for every medical institution and hospital where at least 25 transplants are carried out annually.

The bill states that any living donor, who is not less than 18 years of age, may voluntarily donate any organ or tissue of his body during his lifetime to another living person genetically and legally related. The other person must be a close blood relative of the donor and the donation of an organ or a part or tissue by a person for therapeutic purposes shall be regulated in the manner as may be prescribed.

The bill also provides for donation to be effective after death if a person aged at least 18 years, authorizes any medical institution or hospital approved by a 10-member monitory authority headed by the health minister and including heads of organizations of the medical profession and specialists.

It says transplants and removal of human organs shall only be carried out by recognized professionals after a written certification from an evaluation committee.

The bill prescribes an imprisonment for up to 10 years and a fine of up to one million rupees for those involved in the removal and human organs without the prescribed authority as well as their sale. Contravention of other provisions of the law will be punishable with up to three years of imprisonment or with a fine of up to Rs 300,000, or with both.

A medical practitioner convicted for unauthorized removal of human organs for transplant will also be liable to ‘appropriate action’ by the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, including removal from its register for three years for the first offence and permanently for the subsequent offence.

The bill further states that any person, who is not less than 18 years of age, may donate any of his organs or tissues for transplantation before his death – after a written authorization duly signed and verified by the respective evaluation committee – and authorize any medical institution or hospital duly approved by the monitoring authority for this purpose. 

The evaluation committee, to comprise of a surgical specialist, a medical specialist, a transplant specialist, a nephrologist and a neurophysician and local notables having a good record of social service, would be notified by the federal government soon after the passage of the bill.

The monitoring authority would be headed by the health minister and consist of the health secretary as secretary of the authority. Members of the authority would include the Pakistan Army surgeon general, president of the Transplantation Society of Pakistan, Executive Director, Pakistan Medical Research Council, president Ophthalmological Society of Pakistan, president Pakistan Medical Association of Pakistan, president Pakistan Society of Gastroenterology, a surgical transplant specialist and any other important medical specialist whom the government may nominate as member.

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