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Black market kidney donors are often poorly compensated for
sacrificing a vital organ

Bahrain health officials warn about organ trade mafias

MANAMA, July 27, 2015

Health officials have issued a stark warning about the dangers of medical tourism as growing numbers of Bahrainis look abroad for kidney transplants.

Since 1997, when the Health Ministry opened its Yusuf Khalil Almoayyed Nephrology and Renal Transplant Centre at Salmaniya Medical Complex, 123 citizens have travelled abroad in search of a new kidney, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.

Half of these were destined for either the Philippines or Iran, according to ministry statistics, while the rest travelled to Pakistan, India, Egypt, Iraq, Syria or Bangladesh for their operations.

Unfortunately, many later developed complications and 26 subsequently died.

In response, transplant centre head Dr Soumaya Al Ghareeb is calling for stricter legislation to stop people buying organs abroad.

“According to our records, the price of a kidney used to range between BD15,000 ($39,493) and BD18,000 in the nineties whereas today it has jumped to between BD38,000 and BD40,000,” she said.

“The sad part is that the donor, who is selling their vital organs because they desperately need money, only gets around $1,000 to $2,000 (BD370 to BD750).”

Much of the remainder goes to what Dr Al Ghareeb describes as organ ‘mafias,’ who act as middlemen to illegally source kidneys and other body parts.

“These mafia are involved in a global market, selling organs to make money,” she said.

“While most countries have worked to stamp out this trade, Iran has never stopped and at least one or two cases occur every three to four months.

“Egypt also seems to have resumed of late, while the Philippines have stopped it 100 per cent, and we have had no cases recorded in the past eight to 10 years from there, similar to many of the other countries mentioned.”

The number of people travelling abroad to buy replacement organs might be much higher, the doctor warned, due to the ‘secretive nature’ of organised criminal networks.

“Deteriorating economic conditions, a high unemployment rate in donor countries and gaps in local legislation all add to the problem,” she said.

“In addition, patients can go to the hospital as a tourist in many of these donor countries and are reached out to by criminals, who easily identify them as kidney patients.

“They then come to us and tell us that they have an offer from a donor outside the country and say they want to take the necessary documents.

“However, we are powerless to act unless we have stronger laws to restrict this.”

Dr Al Ghareeb suggested that greater restrictions should be put in place to govern the use of what she calls ‘unrelated donors.’

“More than 70 per cent of Bahraini families have members with diabetes, hypertension and other hereditary diseases, making related donors unsafe,” she said.

“So people resort to unrelated donors and we lack a law that can control this.”

As the black market trade in human organs is totally unregulated, severe complications and even death can result due to infection, blood poisoning and organ rejection, said Dr Al Ghareeb.

“Patients could also end up with serious infectious diseases such as hepatitis, Aids, malaria and tuberculosis – all of which could lead to the death of the patient,” she added.

Health officials in Bahrain have long warned about the dangers of travelling abroad for organ transplants.

As far back as 2006, the GDN reported on doctors’ concerns that Bahrainis were falling ill and dying due to complications arising from illegal kidney transplants abroad.

Complicating matters further is the high rate of diabetes and obesity in the Gulf, both of which increase the chance of renal failure and the need for a replacement kidney. - TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | Trade | Health | Organ | Transplant | kidney | Officials | mafia |

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