FG Plans New Policy Guidelines on Organ Transplant 

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja 

In a bid to address the growing cases of unethical practices in organ donation and transplantation in the country, the Federal Government has said it will soon launch national new guidelines to regulate operators in the sector.

This is as the Transplant Association of Nigeria (TAN) urged the Federal Government to invest funds in medical infrastructure to address organ transplant tourism by investing in the local subsector. 

Despite having a sufficient number of medical professionals in the field, Nigeria still faces significant challenges due to inadequate infrastructure and equipment with only 15 kidney transplant centres in the country.

The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Ali Pate, who was represented by the Director of Trauma Department, Dr. Karmil Soretire, during the Living Kidney Donor Day event Saturday organized by Nisa Medical Group in Abuja, said the event was an opportunity to take stock and appraise the progress, challenges, change and to chart new ways forward. 

He said that the number of patients affected by the chronic kidney disease has been on the rise affecting an estimated 843.6 million individuals worldwide as at 2017. 

The minister listed some of the risk factors of kidney disease in Nigeria to include, high blood pressure, hypertension, diabetes and infections causing inflammation of the kidney. 

Pate said that an alarm was raised in 2019 about two new causes of kidney diseases in Nigeria, which were identified as toxicity caused by prolonged consumption of traditional herbal concoction and exposure to harmful chemicals due to use of skin bleaching cream.

He noted that other causes of kidney diseases are high cholesterol level in the blood, kidney stones, environmental pollution and unsafe drinking water, abuse of analgesics and use of pesticides by farmers.

The minister said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that the global number of deaths caused directly by kidney disease will about 10 million.

In his remarks, the Chief Executive Officer of NISA Medical Group, Dr. Ibrahim Wada, said the event is the second edition of the Living Kidney Donors Day being celebrated by the hospital group in collaboration with its partners — the Clarion Call Care — to honour the heroic act by the donors.  

While praising the kidney donors, Wada said: “Your extraordinary act has helped to inspire us and bring hope to countless lives in need.” 

He said that the event was meant to educate, inspire and empower people with information on the remarkable experience of the living donors. 

Speaking on the concerns generated by allegations of organ harvesting against some hospitals in the country, Wada said: This insidious and important practice exploits the vulnerable and undermines the ethical foundations of organ transplantation. Ultimately we are all harmed.”

As part of measures to combat the crime of organ harvesting, Wada said that NISA is committed to using donor awareness and education campaign as a powerful tool. 

He said that by raising awareness about the risks of unethical implications of organ trafficking, we can protect potential donors and recipients alike. 

Wada also said that through community outreach, educational campaigns and policy advocacy, the group aims to foster a culture of informed and voluntary donation.

According to the physician, the drive is to create a safe and supporting environment for donors, ensuring their health and well-being before, during and after the donation. 

Wada said that the highlight of the engagement was on donor protection mechanism, adding that NISA Group recognizes the importance of safeguarding kidney donors through comprehensive medical care, psychological support and robust medical frameworks. 

The Vice-President of the Transplant Association of Nigeria (TAN), Prof. Aliyu Abdu, said there are more than 15 centres in Nigeria where kidney transplant are carried out.

According to him, out these 15 kidney transplant centres, only a few are currently active, adding that the challenges that the facilities are facing are enormous. 

Abdu said that most of the active kidney transplant centres are owned and operated by the private sector. 

On the issue of alleged abuses and unethical practices associated with organ transplant in Nigeria, Abdu said that TAN is working with the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to develop new guidelines that will sanitize organ transplant business in the country. 

“I want to assure Nigerians that TAN is working hard to bring sanity to these specialised medical services. We are happy to inform you that the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has established a committee that is working on producing guidelines on organ transplantation in Nigeria to ensure that ethical practices are maintained in the sector,” he said.

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