H.O.T or human organ trafficking looms over Mauritius

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Rich people luring poor working class folks to sell their organ, mostly their kidney, is seen as a moral crime that ruthlessly exploits the penury of donors for the benefit of an affluent few.

These scenarios, coupled with organ theft, are now common in South America and some Eastern and Asian countries such a s Nepal, Philippines and India and have become part of medical tourism saga.

Avoiding such a situation in Mauritius was perhaps the main concern of Government and the Opposition on Tuesday last when Parliament voted the THE HUMAN TISSUE (REMOVAL, PRESERVATION AND TRANSPLAN) AMENDMENT BILL

But to what extent can legislation prevent the sales of human organ? For how long will doctors stick to their ethical beliefs in our island where rapid enrichment has become the order of the day?

When documentary film maker Ric Esther Bienstock began work on her new documentary, Tales from the Organ Trade, her staunch opinion was that sales of human organ are morally inacceptable and constitute a crime.

But as the Canadian delved into the estimated $600-million-a-year black market of human organ trafficking, her opinion changed. Her journey into the clandestine world of poor organ donors, sordid middle men who coordinate transactions, mercenary surgeons and desperately ill patients who pay as much as $100,000 for a kidney, shook her ethical certitude.

Bienstock ended with a different viewpoint : “If I knew that I was going to lose my house and, by selling a kidney, I could keep it and save someone else’s life, would I do it? I think I would,”she said openly.

Mauritius met with a huge success in its endeavor to ban sales of blood on the island. Some doctors might still remember how, in the past, middle men and donors crowded the entrance of hospitals looking for those poor parents in dire needs of blood transfusion for their loved ones. Those were the days of professional blood donors, when blood was exchanged for huge sums of money, depending on the blood group.

These ugly scenes have been wiped out and 100 % of all blood used to-day in the country come from voluntary donation.

Can Mauritius have the same success with organ donation? It would be a harder enterprise, for rich people are ready to pay a very high price for organs. Things might become more difficult as more and more of our doctors turn into mercenaries , working for money and only money.

But wherever human organ trafficking (H.O.T., which is in fact the title of a famous documentary on organ trafficking) has cropped up, it has been helped by a database easily available to traffickers. Things have gone so wrong in some countries that people are afraid to give their blood in fear that they might find themselves on the list of highly sought for compatible donors.

In some parts of India for example, people who have rare blood groups, such as the Bombay group, live in fear of being abducted for their organs removed against their will in makeshifts clinics. One out of one million people in Europe belong to this rare blood group.

In 2007 Ravindranath Seppan, of the Chennai Doctors' Association for Social Equality has admitted: "India's rich are turning to India's poor to live longer."

But Mauritius is not India and we have the means to curtail HOT if the minister takes the right action on the onset. Voting the bill in parliament has been a first step, but the most difficult lies ahead for Mauritius is very ill-prepared for organ transplant on a large scale.

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