KARACHI: The Supreme Court (SC) constituted on Saturday a four-member commission led by renowned surgeon Dr Adibul Hasan Rizvi to formulate suggestions on how to curb the illegal trade of human organs in the country.
A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, passed this direction while hearing a suo motu case based on a letter addressed by Dr Rizvi, the director of the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) at the SC's Karachi Registry.
At the outset, the CJP observed that the practice of illegal organ transplants would have to be brought to an end and urged medical experts to assist the court in this regard.
Dr Rizvi said that due to lack of effective legislation, the illegal practice of kidney transplantation was continuing in the country. The surgeon deplored that unfortunately, Pakistan was ahead of other countries in illegal transplantation of organs.
He said all sections of society would have to play an effective role to end this practice.
SIUT's founder director suggested that donation of human organs after death be allowed, as it was legally allowed in the rest of the world, including some Islamic countries.
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For this purpose, he said it was imperative to create awareness among the masses and donors and the media may be used in this regard.
For example, he said, around 1,000 aged people die in accidents or because of other causes in Karachi every year. He opined that the donation of those who die in accidents should be allowed.
He said the illegal trade of human organs would continue if the concept of donating organs was not adopted.
The CJP asked Dr Rizvi to suggest what measures could be immediately adopted to curb the illegal trade of human organs in the country, as it was a sensitive issue. He remarked that necessary orders would be passed to make effective legislation to curb this practice and asked Dr Rizvi to submit his suggestions.
Dr Rizvi said a commission, comprising medical and legal experts, may be constituted to conduct training workshops with regard to organ transplants and legal issues involving the issue.
In his letter addressed to the apex court on May 10, 2016, Dr Rizvi had invited the attention of the then chief justice of Pakistan towards the bad reputation Pakistan was getting due to illegal transplantation of organs in the country.
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He had also attached to the emails sent to him from Canada by Dr Francis Delmonico, the executive director of the Declaration of Istanbul Custodian Group (DICG) - an international organisation that works under the World Health Organisation to protect the poor and vulnerable from 'transplant tourism' and to address the wider problem of trafficking of human organs and tissues. Dr Rizvi is a member of the DICG because Pakistan is a signatory to the declaration.
In one of his emails, Dr Delmonico had alleged that transplantation of kidneys was illegally being carried out at the alSayed Hospital, Rawalpindi, where the condition of the recipient of the transplanted organ was often critical.
Citing an example, he said a 60-year-old woman from Vancouver, Canada, who was suffering from polycystic kidney disease, underwent transplantation at the hospital on April 2, but after returning home she fell seriously sick.
There was no medical record accompanying the patient as she returned to Vancouver, the email said, adding that nevertheless, it seems that she had every expectation that she could buy a kidney in Rawalpindi because that was the track record for Rawalpindi.
"Everybody knows it, including the Pakistani government," the email read.
Another email was sent by Dr Jeremy Chapman - a steering committee member of the DICG from Australia and former president of the International Transplantation Society - stating that a young investment banker was being seen by a private nephrologist not directly attached to his unit. The banker had later undergone transplantation in Gujrat.
This contact helped the recipient of the organ get 'Rehman' tablets from Pakistan at $900 a month to keep him off dialysis. Apparently, the email said, the recipient was operated upon in a makeshift 'house/hospital/clinic' with an epidural anaesthetic.
The donor was a 26-year-old woman who was paid $15,000 and apparently had to be admitted to the intensive care unit with major complications. The doctor who performed the operation was paid $100,000.
In his letter, Dr Rizvi regretted that in both cases, the lives of the donors as well as recipients were at risk, while the so-called doctors had made a bonanza.
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"Because of the gravity of the situation and the fact that this is bringing a very bad name to the country, we would humbly request you [the chief justice] to use your good offices in bringing about an end to the menace of kidney sale in Pakistan," he had pleaded in the letter.
According to Dr Rizvi, the sale of kidneys is forbidden under the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act, 2010 and the law carries a heavy penalty and imprisonment.
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Every human being has the birthright to access free education and healthcare with dignity. This was stated by Dr Rizvi while welcoming the CJP to SIUT on Saturday.
Discussing the illegal business of buying and selling organs with the CJP, Dr Rizvi said that it was laudable that the apex court had taken notice of the grave matter.
Justice Nisar complimented the services being provided free of charge by SIUT to the public population without any discrimination. Howver, he lamented and deplored the malicious and notorious crime of organ trading in the country.
In a noble gesture to support and encourage organ donation in Pakistan, the CJP announced the donation of all his organs posthumously and extended his support to this life-saving cause.
Later, Dr Rizvi, along with his team members, showed Justice Nisar SIUT's facilities and services.