Mixed Reactions to Bill Opting Kenyans in to Organ Donation by Default

Kidney Donation

According to the Ministry of Health Kenya, only 466 patients have undergone transplants since 2006, in public and private hospitals with some patients opting for dialysis instead of transplant because the National Health Insurance Fund does not pay for the life-long drugs needed after transplant.

NHIF only foots Sh500,000 for a transplant but not for the life-long immunosuppressive drugs needed after transplant. It costs a patient about Sh40,000 every month for the drugs to counter kidney failure when they cannot afford a transplant.

“There’s a narrative that it is cheaper to be on dialysis than a transplant. This is a disincentive created by NHIF because it fully pays for dialysis at Sh9,500 per session, two sessions a week,” noted Head of renal unit at KNH John Ngigi.

Donors have chickened out on a lot of transplant patients. About 4,300 Kenyans are undergoing dialysis in 151 centers across the country, according to NHIF. Last year, KNH announced that 2,000 of those people were on its waiting list for a transplant and that it can only conduct about 15 transplants a year.

Speaking during KNH brief on the ongoing donor-supported orthopedic and kidney transplant project, Dr. Ngigi informed the public that doctors will harvest kidneys from fresh corpses if legislators pass Kenya National Blood Transfusion and Organ Transplantation Bill on the same.

Ngigi said the bill will operationalize the Health Act which allows Kenyans, either in a written will or oral statement, to donate their bodies or body parts upon death.

“We also hope we can change the law to extract from friends, but we don’t want to open a Pandora’s box where people can buy kidneys. When the [proposed] bill is up we can harvest from dead people. The proposed bill will set proper frameworks for the donation of cadaveric tissues,” he said.

An audited study on Kenyatta National Hospital’s renal unit found that all the transplants were safe with minimal complications necessitating that the data can be used to educate potential kidney donors on the overall safety of this procedure in a bid to increase the donor pool.

Experts in the field are critiquing the proposed bill, with Kenyan expressing fear over the organ donation bill, that could threaten their existence. Here are some of their remarks.

@njokingumi: This is really interesting and overdue. The issues with dialysis/transplant especially. But they should be clear about the person agreeing prior to death to donate their organs before any cadaveric organ harvests are done.

@cksidney: Harvesting….. Oh my!!! We are almost legalizing assisted death…

@sharknote: This can have some very serious implications especially in the illegal trade of body parts. There was a US documentary that showed patients or victims of accidents would be “killed” quickly to harvest organs. Also, some organs had infections like hepatitis, HIV, etc.