PUTRAJAYA, Dec 7 — Doctors who facilitate organ transplants with their overseas counterparts without Health Ministry knowledge are committing an illegal act, the minister, Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam, said.
He said the ministry is looking into ways to strengthen the laws, including the Human Tissue Act 1974, to prevent such abuses.
“Our key concern is the fact that we do not know where the organs are coming from, and there is the risk that such activities facilitate those engaged in organ trafficking,” he said.
Besides the risk of organs being obtained illegally, there are health risks.
“There remains the risk of rejection, and disease that may be transmitted to the recipient should the donor not be screened,” he said.
“Also, other countries have laws to protect their citizens from being exploited and those engaged in facilitating organ transplants may be in violation of those laws.”
Dr Subramaniam said the number of pledged organs is high but the supply does not meet demand because of weaknesses in the current system.
“Family members of organ donors are allowed to block the harvesting of organs post mortem,” he said.
“This is not ideal and we are working out a system by which this can be addressed while respecting their wishes.”
Dr Subramaniam also said the bulk of organ donors in the country were typically family members who donated a kidney or other vital tissue to needy relatives.
The minister had earlier been reported as saying there were 21,778 chronic patients, including those suffering from stage four organ failure, on the waiting list as of Oct 3.
This was in sharp contrast with the number of 401,242 people who had pledged their organs that could only be harvested post mortem.