Transplant trauma

By Nalaka Gunawardene
Published: Saturday 30 September 1995

The recent banning of kidney transplants among non-relatives by the Indian government has proved to be a setback for hundreds of Sri Lankan kidney patients unable to find enough local organs for transplanting. To worsen the matters, the only medical unit of the country performing kidney transplants since 1985, the Kidney Transplant Programme at Colombo's General Hospital, faces closure due to lack of proper funds and facilities, said Rezvi Sheriff, head of the programme.

This shortage is a result of the Transplantation of Human Organs Act No 42, 1994, of India whereby no human organ removed from the body of a donor before his death shall be transplanted into a recipient unless the 2 are close relatives.

Sri Lankans travelled to India until last year to receive kidneys each year from live Indian donors. They admit that in the past, they paid money to obtain kidney which again is banned. "The medical services available in Sri Lanka for kidney transplants are not satisfactory," said a patient who received a tranplant 4 years ago, "And not everybody can find a relative to be a live donor."

An estimated 1,000 Sri Lankan kidney patients die every year, and atleast 500 lives are saved by transplants. Out of a long waiting list, a mere 10 per cent of the abovementioned figure can undergo transplant operations locally, paying upto Rs 75,000 for Indian kidneys.

Regarding this fallout, Maurice Dias, president, Sri Lankan KIdney Patients Association, says, "It's a bad hit. Lots of patients are going to be affected. They now have to find a relative who is willing to go along with them and donate a kidney. There will probably be more deaths because many patients won't be able to be on dialysis all their lives."

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