The Department of Health (DoH) has issued a total ban on foreign kidney transplantation in the country effectively cutting off foreigners’ access to organs from Filipino donors.
"This directive comes at a time when the Philippine government faces the ethical and moral imperative to protect Filipinos, particularly the poor, from the black market sale of internal organs," Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said in a statement yesterday.
The health chief said this shift in the kidney transplantation policy was initiated by President Arroyo following the recommendation from the World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organization (WHO) to strengthen the living-related organ donation and cadaveric donation programs.
The DoH is set to release the amendment to the recently issued Administrative Order 0004 or the Revised Policy on Kidney Transplantation from Living Non-related Organ Donor and its implementing structures on Monday.
The amendment will nullify the policy for foreign patients supposedly allowing them to receive organ donations from Filipino donors only after approval by the Philippine Network for Organ Donation and Transplantation (Phil NETDAT).
"In the past few years, there has been a reported increase in the number of kidney transplants done on foreign patients with kidneys coming from Filipino living non-related donors, most them come from poor communities, 62 percent increase from 2002 to 2006. It was also observed that the 10 percent limit in foreign transplants has been exceeded in many transplant facilities, both in accredited and non-accredited hospitals of DoH," Duque added.
Duque defined a foreigner as "somebody who is not a Filipino even if the foreigner has stayed in the country 25 years but have not changed his citizenship."
He said a foreigner can only be allowed to undergo a transplant if he or she can prove consanguinity with a Filipino.
Earlier, the DoH issued a cease and desist order against eight hospitals found violating the government rule on a 10-percent annual limit on the total organ supply from living non-related donors that can be allocated for foreign kidney transplant candidates.
These include the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, Cebu Doctors Hospital, Capitol Medical Center, Cardinal Santos Medical Center, Victor R. Potenciano Medical Center, Far Eastern University-NRMF, University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center, and St. Francis Cabrini Medical Center.
Six other medical facilities were issued the cease and desist order due to expired accreditation from the DoH. These are National Kidney Transplant Institute, St Luke’s Medical Center, Quirino Memorial Medical Center, Capitol Medical Center, Philippine General Hospital, Chinese General Hospital.
Dr. Ernie Vera, program manager of kidney program of DoH, revealed that most foreign patients come from the Middle East.
The cost of a kidney transplant procedure ranges from P350,000 to P500,000 for a government-subsidized procedure or P1 million to P2 million for patients in private medical facilities, Duque noted.
The health secretary warned that hospitals and medical professionals found violating the directive are criminally liable under Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.
Under the law, it is unlawful to recruit, hire, adopt, transport, or abduct a person, by means of threat or use of force, fraud, deceit, violence, coercion, or intimidation for the purpose of removal or sale of organs.
Violators will be charged with imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of not less than P1 million but not more than P2million.
Duque has instructed the National Center for Health Promotion to promote awareness on the negative implication of selling kidneys.
"We need to educate. We have instructed the national center for health promotion to give posters to iden areas for people who sell their kidneys what are the dangers they are facing if they no longer have one of the two kidneys for example. So you have to give them the whole breadth of information."
"We reiterate that organ transplant is not part of Philippine Medical Tourism and that organ donation is being promoted only among well-informed, free-willing and altruistic donors without any monetary reward or improper or unethical inducements," Duque reiterated.
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