A consultant nephrologist and kidney transplant physician at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, Dr. Theophilus Umeizudike, said it is illegal to pay for the donation of organs.
Dr. Umeizudike said illegal organ donation thrives in the country because there is no regulation for organ donation in Nigeria.
Organ donation is the process of surgically removing an organ or tissue from one person (the organ donor) and placing it into another person (the recipient).
Transplantation becomes necessary when a recipient’s organ has failed or has been damaged by disease or injury.
Common organ transplantations include kidneys, heart, liver, pancreas, intestines, lungs, bones, bone marrow, skin, and corneas.
Some organs and tissues can be donated by living donors, but most donations occur after the donor might have died.
Speaking with our correspondent, Umeizudike said, “Organ donation is illegal when you are paying someone to donate it.
“This illegality thrives in our country because there is no regulation of the process. There is no government regulatory body overseeing organ transplantation. To have a regulatory body, it takes political will and funding.
“In order to offer people alternatives when you are bringing up such regulations, there should be robust health insurance that can pay for dialysis and kidney transplantation. It is not rocket science, it happens in South Africa.
“Otherwise, people will continue to take advantage of the poor.”
According to the surgeon, there is a shortage of organ donations in Nigeria and other parts of the world.
“There is a shortage of organ donations everywhere in the world, whether for living or deceased donors and that is why there is a waiting list.
“In Iran, the government operates a system where potential kidney donors are paid a stipulated amount. Likely, many of the people donating are not well-to-do or uneducated and they want to donate their organs for a fee.
“A few years ago, we did a study in Nigeria and found that less than 30 per cent of our dialysis patients can continue the treatment for one year. This is because dialysis is capital intensive and much fewer of that number can afford a kidney transplant, as this is equally expensive.
“There is a shortage of kidneys in every country and people on kidney transplant waiting list spend an average of three to four years before getting kidney donated for transplantation.
“In those climes, the people on dialysis are advised that they can bring a relation who can donate to them and that removes them from the waiting list.”