Pakistan organ trade to be examined

Although illegal in most countries, the sale of live organs is a thriving business in Pakistan.

Pakistan poverty
It is mainly Pakistan's poor who sell their organs

Dr Saeed Akhter is one of the world’s leading transplant surgeons, and one of the few Pakistani doctors who refuses to operate unless both the donor and recipient are related.

His stance has led him into a battle with his own colleagues to stop the sale of live organs.

He said: “Right now it’s become a trade which is a disgrace to the country. So I feel, it happens every day in my practice where someone walks in and says why I can’t sell it to you, and we say no, we don’t sell organs here.”

Organ tourism

Each year hundreds of kidneys are sold to patients who come from abroad, to so called ‘organ tourists’.

Poverty stricken villagers feel it’s their only option to earn some extra money. Many donors are left with scars and an uncertain future.

With large debts and a new wife and child, Tariq found an agent to sell his kidney.

The agent took a commission and left Tariq with just $150.

Tariq told Al Jazeera how the money changed his life: “For a little while things were okay. Firstly I paid my debts. And then I had to live on some of it myself. But I was unable to work for a year because of the operation.”

Business transaction

Dr Zahid and his father Colonel Muktar Shah at the Kidney Centre in Rawalpindi have performed over three thousand live organ transplants. It is a service that they say helps those most in need, their patients.

Zahid said that it was not just a business transaction, it was one person saving the life of another.

He said: “If you have no direct relatives who can donate an organ what do you do, stay on dialysis?”

Zahid said that Pakistan has to develop a system of cadaveric transplants which is perfectly allowable in Islamic Law.

Analysts say that supporters of such a plan say it would be relatively simple to implement. Every Pakistani resident would have a donor card, linked to three main trauma centres around the country and organs removed from the dead could easily be transported via the nations’ extensive airline network.

It is a plan that Pakistan’s leaders have been sitting on for fifteen years, and despite some impressive paper shuffling from the current health minister, successive governments have done nothing to implement the laws and ban the sale of live organs.

Tariq said: “The constitution and Islam says all are equal and therefore there should be no need for a man to sell a kidney to survive.

“I hope no one else, ever has to be in such a position like me, that they would have to consider this.”

Source: Al Jazeera