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     Doctors cleared in organ harvesting scam  
   
 

Bangkok Post article:

Full report: http://www.bangkokpost.com/print/442381/

 

Special report: Surgeons didn't know donor was linked to cross-border
trafficking

The Thai medical regulator has found no involvement by Thai doctors in any cross-border organ trafficking.

That's despite recent reports about organ-donor rackets in Cambodia in which Thai hospitals carried out the transplants.


Cross-border organ trafficking came to light in July when the Cambodia Daily reported that Yem Azisah, a 29-year-old Cambodian woman, was arrested along with her stepfather, Nhem Phalla, 40, who is accused of helping her acquire fake identities for kidney donors.

 

The Cambodian donors need the papers to prove they are relatives of would-be recipients. This step is required by Thai doctors before transplant surgery can take place.

One of the donors, who is poor and desperately needed money, was persuaded to sell his kidney for about 325,000 baht and was taken to a Bangkok-based private hospital to have his kidney removed, the report said.

The two have been charged with human trafficking and fraud.

Last month, the AFP news agency quoted Phnom Penh's deputy police chief Prum Sonthor as saying at least two other Cambodian donors were taken to Thailand for transplant surgery.

The report raised fears about a rise in trafficking as part of Thailand's booming medical tourism industry.

After investigating the scandal, the Thai medical regulator has said Thai doctors are unlikely to be knowingly involved cross-border organ trade trafficking. 

"I'm sure Thai doctors are not involved in trafficking,'' said the Medical Council of Thailand (MCT)'s president Somsak Lolekha. "No doctor would dare to do that because they would face severe punishment."

They could have their medical licence revoked and face criminal charges.

A source told the Bangkok Post that while Thai doctors performed the surgery in the Cambodian transplant cases, they did not know they were involved in trafficking.

"The fake document given to doctors showing the donors were relatives of the recipients were stamped with a logo purportedly from the Cambodian embassy, which is hard to distinguish from the real one," he said.

After the Cambodian kidney trafficking cases were reported, the MCT alerted hospitals nationwide to be careful about organ transplants and to check all documents.

Some government authorities proposed issuing a law to regulate transplants in Thailand but the idea has now been dropped.

"We're sure our existing laws can deal with the problem," said Department of Health Service Support deputy director-general Thares Karasnairaviwong.

The MCT's ethical regulations and criminal code could help prevent domestic and cross-border organ trafficking.

Under the MCT's regulations, Thai doctors can only conduct an organ transplant if a donor is a genetic relative or legal spouse of a recipient or a couple who have a child together.

Thai Red Cross Society's Organ Donation Centre (ODC) is the main coordinating centre among registered hospitals, donors and recipients required for organ transplant.

"The shortage of donated organs in these countries is the reason behind organ trafficking," said ODC director Visist Dhitavat.

There are 26 hospitals that are allowed to conduct organ transplants. These hospitals are registered with the ODC.

According to Dr Visist, Thailand has a low rate of organ donation with only three donors per million people. In Spain it is 33.8, and the USA 25.97.

The ODC has run a campaign to encourage people to donate organs after their death, to which 40,608 people signed up last year. The accumulated number of intending donors is about 700,000 people.

About 4,009 people were on a waiting list for organ transplant surgery last year.

Of those 3,779 people were wanting kidneys, 184 were waiting for a liver, 13 wanted both heart and lungs and 12 were awaiting a heart.

A further 11 were waiting for a kidney and pancreas, four for a kidney and liver, four for a lung transplant and two for a pancreas.

But only 158 people died who had agreed to donate their organs. They helped 376 patients, while 147 patients died waiting for organs.

Tanapol Dokkaew, president of the Thai Kidney Club, who has suffered from kidney disease for a decade, believes Thai patients who need organ transplants are aware of the law.

Patients with kidney diseases are getting better treatment since the government introduced the universal healthcare scheme offering free peritoneal dialysis and hemodialysis treatment in 2007. The scheme has helped save more than 38,000 lives, Mr Tanapol said.

He signed up with the ODC as an intended recipient in 2009, and is still waiting.

"Every patient expects a kidney. They're worried about waiting for organs, and afraid of death," said Mr Tanapol. "Our network has tried to encourage them to live happily in the present moment.''

 

About the author

Writer: Paritta Wangkiat
   
 
 
 

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