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‘Gift of Life’: An important step for the lives of millions of Pakistanis – by Hafsa Khawaja

Just a few days ago, a landmark bill was signed  at the ‘Gift of Life’ certificate signing ceremony, organized by the health ministry in collaboration with the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) and the Human Organ Transplantation Association.

Many distinguished and redoubtable personalities including Dr Adeeb Rizvi, Abdus Sattar Edhi, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Federal and provincial ministers and World Health Organisation (WHO) officials attended the ceremony.

It was here that the President became the first in world history to donate all his body organs, after signing the bill to regulate transplant of human organs in the country. He made the announcement of “donating his whole body” after his life, as he inked the document in a ceremony held at Aiwan-e-Sadr.

He stated that he took this decision in light of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s philosophy of living for others and that:

“Because I want to convince my people to become a nation of donors, I led the way to become the first person to donate all my organs for deserving patients. Now I can expect them to follow the path”.

He also evinced top-level personal support for a new national organ transplantation service by signing the document. The new service is based on donations from deceased donors. It prohibits commercial transplantation and outlaws the organ trade.

“President Zardari also said that Pakistan was singled out in the world community due to the notorious trade of organ transplant of body organs and urged the Parliament and the doctors to create awareness about the issue among the masses.”

He signed the law that now makes sale and unauthorized transplant of body organs punishable with up to 10 years in prison provides for a regulatory mechanism, including a high-level federal monitoring authority and evaluation committees, for the removal, storage and transplantation of human organs and tissues for therapeutic purposes.

Many organizations around the world have lauded this step by the Pakistani Government; the World Health Organization has expressed their remarks as:

“Pakistan has taken an important step in passing this new law to regulate organ transplantation, and is setting an excellent example to other countries,” said Dr Hussein A. Gezairy, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean. “The commercialization of organ transplantation is unethical, inequitable and unhealthy – both for vendors and recipients.”

According to information available with the WHO:

“Kidney transplantation began in Pakistan in the late 1980s. And by the late 1990s, the majority of kidneys were bought from individuals from villages located around major cities. By 2003, most kidney transplants were undertaken in private hospitals in the cities of Punjab.

Organ transplantation is the only treatment for a range of fatal and non-fatal diseases affecting the heart, liver or lungs. Kidney transplantation is generally accepted as the best treatment both for quality of life and cost effectiveness. It is by far the most frequently carried out form of transplantation globally.

Demand for organs outstrips supply in almost every country of the world. WHO estimates that less than one tenth of estimated global needs in organ transplantation are currently met.

The resolution highlights the social risks associated with trafficking in human materials, and the need for public support to stamp out the trade and increase donations from deceased donors.

Third Global Consultation on Organ Donation and Transplantation agreed to aim for self-sufficiency by scaling up preventive measures (such as healthy lifestyle campaigns) to reduce the numbers of people needing organ transplants, and to encourage people to do what President Zardari is doing today: demonstrating a commitment to the community by bequeathing his organs for use by others after his death. Ensuring adequate local supply of voluntarily donated organs is critical to eliminating commercial trade and “transplant tourism”.

The President also announced that the Government would officially nominate prominent surgeon Dr Adeebul Hassan Rizvi for Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his services in the field of organ transplant.

Prof. Adeeb Rizvi, the director of Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) which is the largest public sector health organisation in the country and provides free, modern medical care for kidney diseases and transplantation, is not a new name in the sphere of pre-eminent people rendering services for humanity. He is engaged in doing a phenomenal job when it comes to medical treatment and welfare of patients coming over to SIUT.

He has devoted his existence in saving millions of lives through the establishment of SIUT.

SIUT Started as an 8 bed unit in 1971 is now a 450 bedded facility, the largest health organization in Pakistan. This provides free and comprehensive services in urology, nephrology, transplantation and liver related diseases.

SIUT’s prime mission is to treat diseases and to create awareness among people about their prevention. It also works towards the rehabilitation of patients after treatment. After being given autonomy in 1991, SIUT has treated over 1 million patients and spent over a billion rupees on patient care.

Their patients are predominantly from the rural and poorer urban strata with virtually no access to medical facilities, and those people who are financially incapable of affording modern diagnostic, treatment and transplant facilities.

SIUT’s extensive facilities are fully equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, which enables it to provide free treatment related to a vast area of medicine. This also means that many patients, who would have to go abroad for costly treatment, can now be treated within the country, thereby saving valuable foreign exchange.

Everyone, regardless of creed, class, colour and financial grasp is welcomed in the Institute.

Dr. Adeeb Rizvi praised the efforts made by President Zardari for the unanimous adoption of the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act by both houses of parliament.

The ‘Gift of Life’ Ceremony is indeed another achievement of this PPP Government which is bent on providing a strong base for the future of Pakistan. The bill that has been passed is vital to shun and curtail the profiteering of organs in Pakistan and also the exploitation of the disadvantaged who sell them to free themselves from the clutch of poverty and economic difficulties.

President Asif Ali Zardari himself has become the torch-bearer to counter the illegal trade of organs and it is disappointing to say the least that this excellent ceremony and the signing of this bill was neither given enough attention nor commended by the media of Pakistan while this action is being termed greatly commendable globally.

One must remember the words of the Quaid:

“Praise your Government when it deserves. Criticise your Government fearlessly when it deserves, but do not go on all the time attacking, indulging in destructive criticism, taking delight in running down the Ministry or the officials.”
– Reply to welcome address, Edwardes College, Peshawar 1948.

About the author

Hafsa Khawaja


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  • Hafsa ,excellent article.
    AAZ with all his weakness, still is the first head of state in Pakistan ,who has talked on issues ,which are very considered serious enough in past. His public desire to end capital punishment, revisiting blasphemy law and legalizing organ transplant , must be appreciated.

  • ID cards to have organ donation column: Zardari
    President Asif Ali Zardari has said that Pakistan is still in a state of war and urged unity to get through such a crucial time. Addressing a ceremony held in connection with organ donation in Karachi on Thursday, Zardari vowed to establish Gene Banks across the country to provide the public with gene therapy. He said that NADRA ID cards will have a column of organ donation. The President has signed draft of organ donation. The president maintained ‘when the whole world was divided in two blocks, we made human arms’.

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