Sunday, March 16, 2008

Presumed Consent and Organ Transplants: The Spanish Connection

Organ Transplant: The Spanish Connection
As more and more countries are studying the adoption of "presumed consent" for organ donation, such as the UK and Australia, India's authorities have proposed a law that would place such a policy in force within a few months. However, this article notes that religion and culture may combine to stir up a major controversy.

From MSN News:
It’s on paper, and would be in force in the country within three months. At least that’s what Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss has proposed after his team got lured by the Spanish model.

Hold; do not assume the model to be a belle from Spain. She is just a human organ transplant law India is about to adopt from the West. A model which is likely to fall off the ramp.

The reason: It would not be an easy affair for the Government to force the concept of `presumed consent’ in a religiously and culturally sensitive country like India.

Aimed to tackle the shortage of organs for transplant, the law will enable the government to harvest the organs of all brain dead people in government hospitals; that too without the consent of relatives.

The near and dear ones can raise an objection. But only if the brain dead person has specifically stated that he or she is against organ transplant.

One of the amendments proposed in the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994, the legal `harvest’ is supposed to begin with cornea. Other organs will be harvested only at a later stage as the Ministry wants people to learn about presumed consent first.

And, the amendment was initiated after the police unearthed a multi-billion dollar kidney transplant racket in Gurgaon, on the outskirt of Delhi in January.

Though it is expected that the `presumed consent’ will check illegal organ trade and help scores of visually impaired, Ramadoss seems to have ignored the larger implications of this concept.

People here hold the dead dearer to their hearts and it could stir up a major controversy.

It would be totally foolish for him to presume that the presumed consent’ will lead to increased donor rates in India like in Spain. The team headed by the Director General of Health Services R.K. Srivastava, had preferred this model to those existing in US, Iran, Belgium, France and Singapore.

Though eye donation is an accepted practice in India, removal of other vital organs from the cadavers or brain dead patients is likely to be objected by relatives. With a huge population of illiterates and less-educated, the country will have to face repeated law and order problems once the concept is introduced.

Even in the United States, it is mandatory for the hospitals to get the consent of the immediate kin for organ donation. Being more ritualistic, the Indians will be lot more unhappy if the hospitals proceed to cut open their dear ones’ mortal remains without any consent.

Besides, the Ministry has to guard against the possible misuse of the law by the government medical practitioners, who are not free of corruption and unethical practices.

And the Ministry’s job doesn’t end with the setting up of Organ Retrieval and Banking Organisations (ORBO). Strict monitoring has to be in place before allowing the centres to harvest organs, that too with `presumed consent’.

Let not the Health Ministry’s Spanish connection turn a bloomer.

Source: Indiasyndicate.

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