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Selling organs kills more poor Pinoys, donation advocates say

By Tessa Salazar
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 17:25:00 11/27/2009

Filed Under: Health

MANILA, Philippines--``Please, don't throw away your kidneys.?

Amid the growing scarcity of available kidneys from deceased donors, organ donation advocates have aired this appeal to Filipinos who plan on selling their kidneys.

The advocates have also sounded the alarm that an increasing number of Filipinos in need of life-saving organ transplants are succumbing due to the lack of available deceased donors. Rampant organ trafficking, particularly of kidneys, they allege, has contributed significantly to this shortage.

This observation was revealed Nov. 12 during the country?s First Organ Donation and Transplantation Summit at Innotech, Quezon City organized by the Integrated Program on Organ Donation (Ipod).

Disparity widened

The disparity between living and nonliving donors in the Philippines has widened such that in 2007, 90 percent of kidneys for transplantation were from living donors. In exact numbers, the Philippines only averaged 15 deceased organ donors each year from 1999 to 2007.

The 2007 Philippine Renal Disease Registry revealed that 10,000 to 12,000 Filipinos develop end-stage renal disease, half of which are eligible for transplant operation. Out of 5,000 patients eligible for transplant, less than 10 percent are actually transplanted upon because of insufficient organ supply.

Ipod stressed that organ donation is a life-saving and heroic act, and that there is still much to be done before the practice becomes routine among Filipinos. Advocates also stressed the need to educate Filipinos about transplantation, particularly on which organs can actually be transplanted (such as the liver, pancreas and lungs).

Dr. Ernie V. Vera VII, Department of Health?s NCDPC-DDO (National Center for Disease Prevention and Control-Degenerative Disease Office), has admitted that the lack of living nonrelated organ donors has persisted, especially now as most ?donors? choose to sell their kidneys to foreigners.

Widesspread brokering

Vera disclosed that there is a widespread brokering of living organ sellers in the country, although no reliable figures could prove this. But there are enough stories in hospitals about brokers receiving significant cuts from the recipients? payments, leaving some ?donors? complaining of being duped into selling their organs.

Vera said a solution to organ trafficking would be to set up a Philippine organ donation and registry system for living and deceased organ donors.

Dr. Vicente V. Tanseco, chair of Ipod, said the team would start in the National Capital Region mainly to initially address the lack of education among physicians and the public on the system and processes of organ donation.

?Filipinos would rather opt for a living donor to donate his or her kidneys than get from a deceased donor. People would say ?naghihingalo na nga, kukuhanan pa ng kidney? (loosely translated as ?adding insult to injury?).?

Tanseco clarified that ?deceased donors? are biologically dead (brain dead) but not yet deemed clinically dead as they are still on a life support system, with the heart still beating. As such, the patient feels no pain and suffering.

Greater impediment

Tanseco explained that a greater impediment to the public acceptance of deceased organ donors would be the socio-economic cost of organ procurement (organ retrieval). In the United States, the procurement expenses are paid for by the health insurance firms and the state. In the Philippines, however, whoever needs it must pay for it. In this case, it is the patient in need of the organ.

Dr. Angel Joaquin Amante, Ipod president, estimated the cost of organ acquisition to range from P250,000 to P300,000, the cost of the transplant operation not yet included.

The World Health Organization has already expressed its support for the promotion of deceased organ donation in the Philippines as one way to protect the poorest and most vulnerable members of society from organ trafficking.

?The international transplant community looks forward to the development of a successful program of deceased organ donation in the Philippines, consistent with the principles of the Istanbul declaration,? Dr. Francis L. Delmonico, director of medical affairs of The Transplant Society, wrote in an e-mail.

Delmonico is the WHO?s adviser for human transplantation. He is also professor of surgery of the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.


The Philippines is a signatory of the 2008 Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism.

Howard Nathan, president and CEO of the Gift of Life Donor Program, admitted that the Filipino public is still largely unaware of organ donation. He is appealing to Filipinos to encourage and promote deceased organ donation and to get to know more about the process of donating organs as a way of stopping organ trafficking.

Ipod seeks to advocate the continuous supply of organs from deceased donors in a way that is equitable, just, ethical and morally responsible. It envisions a Philippines where everyone says yes to deceased organ donation and where no Filipino would die waiting for an organ.

As an organ procurement organization, Ipod believes that a successful deceased organ donation program in the Philippines would streamline the removal, storage and transplantation of human organs for therapeutic purposes; prevent commercial trafficking in organs and most importantly, overcome the organ shortage.

Copyright 2015 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.




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