Doctors performing surgery
Doctors performing surgery

FCT NMA Seeks Legislation to Address Organ Trafficking

The FCT chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), has called on the National Assembly (NASS) to enact laws specifically aimed at addressing and preventing organ trafficking in the country.

Speaking at a press briefing in Abuja on Monday, the chairman of FCT NMA, Charles Ugwuanyi, said with specific laws, Nigeria can make efforts towards eradicating organ trafficking and protecting the well-being of its citizens.

Mr Ugwuanyi said the existing law governing organ transplants in the country is limited in depth, hence unable to address emerging issues.

“It only requires the donor to be above 18 years of age and the fact that there is no financial inducement for the donation,” he said.

Illegal organ trading

The briefing was organised to address the allegation of illegal kidney trade involving Alliance Hospital, an Abuja-based medical facility.

Daily Trust in an investigation published on 10 December, detailed the thriving economy of illegal kidney trade in the FCT and how agents operate freely, luring young men from low economic backgrounds to sell their kidneys.

The investigation also highlighted how Nigeria’s socio-economic challenges have contributed to the travails of the young men who sell their kidneys without minding the long-term repercussions, as Nigeria has no regulatory body in charge.

In a reaction to the findings via his official X account, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Muhammad Pate, clarified that there is a policy and legal framework that enables regulation of health practice in Nigeria, including medical transplantation.

Mr Pate said Sections 51-56 of the National Health Act 2014 (NHA 2014) prohibit the illegality uncovered in the investigation, adding that the central issues concern the enforcement practices and evasion of the regulatory guidelines by criminals.

The minister further noted in his reaction that his ministry recently inaugurated the Tertiary Hospitals Care Standards Committee to enhance the effectiveness of the government in regulating practices.

He noted that in the proposed 2024 appropriation directed by President Bola Tinubu, “we slated significant resources to enhance such regulations and curb the criminality experienced by Nigerians over so many years in the past.”

Fair Judgement

In reaction to this, Mr Ugwuanyi said every potential case must be given a balanced judgment by constituted authorities.

He called on the relevant government authorities and the legislative arm of government to review the laws. He also expressed worry that organ harvesting may become a common practice soon if nothing is done.

“So, we can project that in the next few years, there will be a lot of organ harvesting. Therefore, we must and we will keep calling on our government to strengthen laws guiding them,” he said.

“Let us see what is happening as pointers to bigger problems in the future and that is how the society develops.”

Mr Ugwuanyi also called on the public to allow relevant authorities handle the issue instead of blacklisting the hospital involved.

He said the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) has a tribunal that tries doctors on issues related to bad practice and others.

“And we always encourage our patients, if you feel you haven‘t been treated well. Please don‘t choose violence against us, violence can be physical, emotional, cyberbullying, please go to the tribunals,” he said.

“Trust the MDCN as a tribunal, they do a thorough job, and I‘m sure you have been hearing that they disciplined doctors even to the extent of delisting from the registry, stripping of your practicing license.”

Due process

Speaking at the briefing, the managing director of Alliance Hospital, Christopher Otabor, explained that as a rule, kidney recipients source for their donors and present them to the hospital for screening for compatibility and fitness for donation.

Mr Otabor said after the screening, the hospital proceeds to ensure they meet the legal requirements before commencing any medical procedure.

He said the requirements include: “Donors must be 18 years or above and must sign consent in the presence of two adult witnesses. Donors are expected to swear an affidavit stating their age and affirming that the decision to donate is by free will and there is no compulsion or financial inducement.”

“We have followed the above protocol strictly for all the kidney transplant cases done by the hospital.”

SOURCE: Premium Times