A word of caution

MUSCAT, April 28 – In view of a drastic rise in the number of people travelling abroad for organ transplants, citizens and residents have been asked to exercise caution. While pointing out that illegal trafficking in organ trade is on the rise worldwide, experts urge citizens to follow guidelines issued by the ministries of health and foreign affairs in Oman. “Shortage of donors and months of waiting for surgery often forces Omani patients to go abroad in search of donors. Not only that they have to spend lot of money, but also in many cases, they end up in developing surgical complications,” said Dr Mahmood al Rahbi, senior consultant, emergency medicines, at Al Nahda Hospital.

In recent statements, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has warned that Omani citizens and residents should be careful with regards to organ transplant surgeries abroad. “Those who seek to receive organ donations must ensure that the agencies, institutions and persons they deal with are officially accredited and recognised by the authorities,” said a statement from the ministry. The statement added that all dealings regarding surgeries should be legally bound and procedures used in those countries should be transparent. Dr Al Rahbi said that the shortage of donors in Oman forces many people to go through horrific ordeals in the hope of a healthy life.

“Even after transplantation, they require post-surgical care. A rehabilitation centre in this regard will go a long way in helping these patients,” he said.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO) data published in 2014, kidney disease deaths in Oman reached 2.97 per cent of total deaths. Also complicating the matter is the high rate of diabetes among patients, a condition that can increase the chance of renal failure. The Sultanate has the highest rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in the world. A study by Fatma al Rahbi and Issa al Salmi at Royal Hospital showed the most common underlying cause for seeking commercial transplantation is the unavailability of a national transplant programme, particularly transplantation from deceased sources.

“Commercial transplantation is not only controversial from an ethical point of view, but it may result in serious complications in the post-operative period that can cause high rates of morbidity and mortality,” the study points out. Lack of enough donors and months of waiting for surgery forces patients to flock to different counties and spend huge amount to buy organs, mainly kidneys. The study revealed that 74 per cent of the participants in the survey stated that their operation took place in a sort of vacation accommodation that was prepared as a hospital and they did not know the name of it.

At the same time, 14 per cent of them stated that they were operated on at a home residence, 5 per cent stated that they were operated on at a clinic, and 7 per cent neither recognised nor had been told the name of the place. To tackle the issue of shortage of donors, the Ministry of Health has started distributing organ donor cards across Oman and printing the individual’s consent on their ID cards, in a significant move to save lives.