Concern over ads seeking organs

November 13, 2017 12:00 am | Updated 05:01 am IST

In several recent petitions, HC gave permission to advertise for organs

Amidst concerns about the flagging deceased donor organ donation programme of the State, Mrithasanjeevani, the government is now battling another trend in the organ transplantation scenario which it deems is undesirable and unethical – advertisements seeking human organs.

The Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994, prohibits the publishing or distribution of any advertisement inviting persons to supply human organs for payment. The State government, on December 30, 2016, issued a circular that as the Act prohibits advertising for organs on commercial grounds, no print media should carry such advertisements .

However, in recent times, there has been a series of writ petitions before the High Court, filed by relatives of end-stage renal/liver disease patients awaiting transplant, demanding that they be allowed advertise in newspapers seeking suitable donors.

Five petitions a week

“In the last three weeks, we saw at least five writ petitions being filed every week. These petitions are piggybanking on Section 9(3) clause in the Act, which makes organ donation from second-degree relatives or friends out of “love or altruism,” possible,” a senior legal counsel at the HC told The Hindu .

By banning advertisements, the government wanted to ensure that no commercial motives are being served in unrelated live organ donations. However, the court seems to have been concerned about the desperation of the petitioners. In several of these recent writ petitions, petitioners could secure the High Court’s permission to place advertisements.

Ethical reasons

However, the government feels that the issue is fraught with ethical and moral implications. “Those seeking organs from volunteer donors through advertisements might be desperate but there is no way we can ensure that these donors have altruistic motives alone or that no money is exchanging hands. In the last five years, there has been close to 1,700 unrelated living donor transplants in the State’s private sector, while 700-odd end-stage patients registered under Mrithasanjeevani have died waiting for organs. Allowing advertisements would pave way for exploitation and organ trade,” a senior Health official said.

Hearing today

With the number of petitions seeking permission for advertising going up, the High Court has now sought the government’s stand to draw up guidelines. On Monday, the court will take up a batch of petitions. The government will also be filing an affidavit on the issue.

Govt proposal

Sources said the government would propose that all public notices seeking volunteer donors be moved through the Kerala Network for Organ Sharing (KNOS), the State’s nodal agency for coordinating Mrithasanjeevani.

“Those volunteering to donate organs out of altruism can do so via KNOS, which can ensure that the seeker or the donor do not come into contact. We want to rule out the possibility of people trading organs for money,” an official said.

  • Transplantation of Human Organs Act prohibits advertising for organs for payment

  • Govt circular bans print media from carrying advertisements seeking organ donors

  • HC flooded with petitions for permission to seek organ donors via newspaper advertisements

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