Measures planned to radically increase organ transplants
The Ukrainian government is planning to make organ removal from those who have died for transplant purposes mandatory. Experts advise against haste and say comprehensive discussion is needed to avoid abuse.
The Health Ministry says that at present there is a State programme in force with 7 transplant centres. These could carry out 6, 500 heart, liver, kidney transplants a year, and help people suffering from sugar diabetes. Yet according to their figures, only 1% of the transplants needed are carried out. Last year only 86 people received kidney transplants and that was solely in cases where relatives donated kidneys. There were 14 liver transplants and only one heart transplant.
The Ministry says that the low figures are due to the virtual lack of organs. It is hoping to introduce a “presumed consent” system for the use of a person’s organs on death for transplant purposes. The Chief Transplant Surgeon, Oleksandr Nykonenko recently announced that a draft law was being prepared to this effect. It would allow the use of any body organs on death if a person had earlier not expressed opposition.
This will require a radical change to current legislation which presumes a person does not agree unless otherwise stated. Only the person themselves can make this decision, it cannot be made by relatives after the person has died.
Iryna Senyuta, from the Foundation for Medical Law and Bioethics says that most people adopt this position of non-consent. She says the issue has become coloured by certain bad cases undermining the possibility of a positive effect from transplants.
Lilia Hryhorovych, Secretary of the Parliamentary Committee on Healthcare and herself a doctor by profession says that in the 10 years that the present law has been in force, little has been done to encourage people to become organ donors.
Andriy Rokhansky from the Kharkiv Human Rights Group believes another reason is that people are worried about such cooperation with the State when the latter cannot fully guarantee confidentiality of its database. They can be frightened of being killed for their organs.
Andriy Rokhansky sees the new law as basically progressive but stresses the need to take the wishes of specific groups of believers or others into account. In some cases dissent is clear, and it would be dangerous to assume consent, leaving it at the discretion of doctors.
Iryna Senyuta points out that Ukraine has signed the International Agreement of Human Rights in Biomedicine and this stresses the need to have a person’s permission.
All three people interviewed stressed the need for widespread discussion.
From a report at the Deutsche Welle Ukrainian Service