New Bill seeks to ban body organ sale

Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Minister of Health (far centre), presents the Uganda Human Organ Donation and Transplant Bill, 2021 before the Health Committee of Parliament on August 9, 2022. PHOTO | DAVID LUBOWA

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The Ministry of Health yesterday handed to the Parliament’s Health Committee for scrutiny, the Uganda Human Organ Donation and Transplant Bill, 2021, which among others, seeks to prohibit the sale and purchasing of body organs. 

A copy of the Bill, which this newspaper has seen, indicates that a person who sells an organ commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.

“The sale of one of a pair of organs such as eye or kidney by a living donor for financial or any other form of compensation is prohibited,” the Bill reads in part. 

The only acceptable reward is the compensation for living donors of loss of earnings and any other justifiable expenses caused by removal or by related medical examination. Payment is also acceptable for technical services related to organ removal in a regulated setting. 

In the Bill, any person who gives or receives a reward for the supply of, or for an offer to supply a human organ, cell or tissue is liable, upon conviction, to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand currency points (Shs2b) or 20 years in prison. This penalty also applies to brokers, hospitals and companies that will take part in the initiation or negotiation of arrangements to seek or offer human organs for reward. The removal of any organ from the dead body by hospitals without consent from a close relative is also prohibited. 

While presenting before the committee in Parliament yesterday, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Health minister, said although the country is ready to start organ transplants, the absence of a legal framework is standing in the way. 

Uganda is still relying on countries such as India, the United Kingdom and America for organ transplant procedures, which costs the families and the country a lot of money in terms of medical tourism. 

“It is important to put in place a legal framework for organ and tissue transplant in Uganda to regulate practice and trade in organ and tissue for safety and security of Ugandans. This will protect Ugandans from being potential victims of organ, cell and tissue trafficking,” Dr Aceng said.

The minister said the Bill also seeks to establish the Uganda Organ and Transplant Council to oversee and regulate organ, cell and tissue donation and transplantation.  

Dr Timothy Batuwa, the Shadow minister for Health, implored the council to be transparent while regulating sensitive medical service.

“Any weakness in this law can lead to human trafficking. We have children who leave school and go home late in the evening. These kids can be at risk of being trafficked for organ purposes if the law is weak in any way,” he added.

Regulation council

Health minister Ruth Aceng said the regulatory council will be composed of technical persons with specific qualifications relevant to organ donation and transplant, have a secretariat and work through or co-opt technical committees. 

Dr Charles Ayume, the chairperson of the Health Committee, said they will study the Bill and present their final position in 10 days. 

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