As many as 410 Saudis have bought from the black market organs – mainly kidneys – for illegal transplantation, during the past two years, Makkah daily reported on Monday.
“A total of 220 Saudis bought organs for transplants from markets in Pakistan, China and Egypt in 2013 and 190 did the same in 2012 at their own personal expense,” said Dr. Faisal Shaheen, director of the Saudi Center for Organ Transplants.
He said transplant operations for all the Saudis have succeeded but about 40 percent of them had to seek further treatment for various side-effects.
“This is how the doctors discovered that the citizens bought organs from the black market and illegally got them transplanted and later informed the center,” he said.
Shaheen said the center informed the World Health Organization (WHO), which is concerned with efforts to stop the black market in organs.
He pointed out that many of these Saudis had died during the operations but said it was difficult to estimate their number because they traveled without informing the concerned authorities.
“There is no mechanism so far to prevent Saudis from traveling outside for organ transplants,” he added.
Shaheen said the correct procedure for organ transplants is that they should be conducted in the Kingdom’s specialized hospitals after the patients have been put on a waiting list. He said the Health Ministry could also send some patients for organ transplants in specialized centers abroad.
He said the WHO is currently studying the possibility of implementing an “organ code” that makes it imperative for patients to state clearly where they obtained the organs. “This procedure aims to curb the black market in organs,” he added.
Shaheen said no organ donor in the Kingdom had ever asked to be given back his organ after donation or to be compensated financially when the patient dies.
“This had happened in many other countries but not in the Kingdom,” he said.
In an earlier report, Dr. Shaheen said that more than 7,000 patients in need of kidney transplants were awaiting donors. He noted that 50 to 60 percent of patients receiving treatment for kidney-related ailments in the Kingdom need transplants. In 2013, only 77 out of the 750 families of brain-dead patients agreed to let the patient be an organ donor. The Kingdom actively supports organ donation and the Saudi Center for Organ Transplantation (SCOT) has spearheaded numerous public awareness campaigns on the importance of organ donations. Despite these efforts, experts say a lack of transparency, awareness and conflicting religious edicts have hindered efforts to increase the number of donors.
Many experts said an organ donation week, similar to blood donation campaigns, should be held to increase awareness, and schools across the Kingdom should join these efforts by holding seminars for students.
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