September 28, 2011 at 12:00 pm
A recent media report about the alleged involvement of Malaysian hospitals in illegal kidney trade has sparked an immediate response by the Malaysian government. The Health Ministry will liaise with the federal police in this investigation after a report alleged that donors from remote villages in Bangladesh were allegedly flown to Southeast Asia to sell their kidneys.
Although this report might sound far-fetched, especially for professionals in the Malaysian healthcare industry, Health director-general Datuk Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman said the ministry took a very serious view of the matter. The government’s quick response to this highlights its commitment in marketing Malaysia as a medical tourism destination, especially to patients abroad.
Most medical practitioners here in Malaysia pride themselves in the fact that the Malaysian healthcare industry adheres to a higher standard, both legal and medical, compared to other ‘popular’ medical tourism destinations which usually come with reputations of loose regulations and unethical practices. They are quick to point out that while looser regulations might translate into the possibility of procuring donor organs easily, such practises are often illegal and dangerous as the proper screenings and tests are avoided.
The average Malaysian is, of course, very glad to know that they are safe to walk down the street without having to protect themselves against organ snatchers.
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The alleged involvement of Malaysian hospitals in illegal kidney trade will see the health ministry liaising with the federal police to launch an investigation.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman said the ministry took a very serious view of a recent media report on this matter.
He explained that kidney transplantation in Malaysia was currently performed at specific hospitals, namely Kuala Lumpur Hospital, Selayang Hospital, Universiti Malaya Medical Centre and a few private hospitals in the Klang Valley.
Dr Hasan said it seemed a little far-fetched for such an illegal activity, especially involving foreigners, to have been conducted in any of the said hospitals.
“However, if there is evidence that such a thing had happened in any of the hospitals, the ministry will certainly take serious action against them,” he vowed.
The report alleged that donors from remote villages in Bangladesh were allegedly flown to Southeast Asia to sell their kidneys.
Dr Hasan said the ministry encouraged cadaveric organ transplantation and transplants from live, related donors.
He noted that transplants from unrelated donors needed to be vetted by an independent body called ‘Unrelated Transplant Approval Committee’, appointed by the health director-general.
“Hence, the alleged transplants from unrelated foreigners (from Bangladesh) would have required prior approval from the ministry. Our records show that there have been no such requests or applications,” he said.
As a member of the World Health Organisation and signatory to The Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism, Malaysia is committed to ensuring that illegal organ trade did not occur in the country, said Dr Hasan.
“To further regulate transplantation, the ministry is currently in the midst of drafting a new and comprehensive Transplantation Bill,” he said, adding that the National Organ, Tissue and Cell Transplantation Policy was established in 2007 to guide the development of transplantation based on best ethical practices in Malaysian hospitals.
Photo (c) Spec-ta-cles