Monday February 18, 2013
Constant delays hamper organ transplants in Malaysia
By SARBAN SINGH and C.S. NATHAN
SEREMBAN: More than 16,000 people remain on the waiting list for an organ transplant but fewer than 50 actual donors emerge each year.
The Health Ministry has attributed the low conversion rate to constant delays in harvesting available organs.
It is now targeting the organs and tissues of homicide and road accident victims as thousands of organs have gone to waste.
And it has told all government hospitals to abide by a “must-do list” to expedite the process.
The ministry's deputy director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said findings showed that some 55% of accident and homicide victims could have had their body parts harvested.
Suicides and accidents, he added, were often overlooked for harvesting since they involved police investigations and took a longer time to be completed, resulting in damage to the organs and tissues.
In the last decade, some 70,000 Malaysians perished in road accidents with the majority being in the 16 to 25 age group.
Among the organs and tissues that could be harvested were corneas, kidneys, lungs, heart valves, heart, liver, skin and bones.
The ministry, he said, had recently discussed the matter with the police and the judiciary who had agreed to play a more effective role in the management of such cases for the benefit of those waiting for transplants.
“The ministry, together with the police and the Federal Court have studied the present legal provisions to streamline the management of such cases,” he said in a circular.
The procedures, to be followed by the Tissue and Organ Procurement teams at each hospital, aimed at cutting down red tape in securing and processing the organs.
They range from obtaining the consent from the dead person's next-of-kin to harvest the organs to coordinating with police and the National Transplant Resource Centre in Kuala Lumpur.
Dr Noor Hisham said the teams would get written approval from the magistrate, “even if it is beyond office hours before the process can be carried out.”
“We must be quick as in some cases, we need to send specialist teams from the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, Selayang Hospital and the National Heart Institute,” he said.
Apart from the paperwork to be done from documenting police reports and the deceased's record numbers investigating officers must inspect the external condition of the donor's body, take the necessary photographs and classify the case before the organs and tissues are harvested.
Dr Noor Hashim assured that bodies would be handled with respect at all times.
“After the process is completed, the body will be sent to the mortuary for post-mortem and eventually handed to the family,” he said.
He said that the National Transplant Resource Centre would also educate policemen and magistrates “so that all parties could complement one another in a professional manner”.
Organs from road accident victims can be of big help