Medics welcome Govt’s approval of organ transplants

A cabinet meeting chaired by President Paul Kagame, on Wednesday approved organ transplants, a move, doctors say, has come at a right time.  Organ transplantation is the moving of an organ from one body to another or from a donor site on the patient’s own body, for the purpose of replacing the recipient’s damaged or absent organ.
Doctors carryout an operation at KFH. The approval of organic transplant has been welcomed by medics countrywide. The New Times / File.
Doctors carryout an operation at KFH. The approval of organic transplant has been welcomed by medics countrywide. The New Times / File.

A cabinet meeting chaired by President Paul Kagame, on Wednesday approved organ transplants, a move, doctors say, has come at a right time.

Organ transplantation is the moving of an organ from one body to another or from a donor site on the patient’s own body, for the purpose of replacing the recipient’s damaged or absent organ.

A section of the ministerial decree determines the donation card and the will format for a person willing to donate his or her body, body parts or organs for research, medical, scientific and educational purposes. Another section determines procedures for importation and exportation of organs, tissues and products from a body of a dead person for therapeutic or scientific research utilization purposes.

The cabinet also approved a ministerial decree establishing a list of diseases whose medical tests must be undertaken by a person willing to donate or to receive an organ or tissues of human body.

Currently, organ transplants are carried out at King Faisal Hospital only and according to the Acting CEO of the hospital, Dr. Alex Butera, the ministerial decree will streamline the exercise.

 “The decree came in the right time; you have heard of cases of organ trafficking, these decrees clearly state how organs are to be imported and exported,” said Dr. Butera.

He said since the hospital started conducting organ transplants, donor responses have been impressive.

“People in this country are good at donating organs; we have had cases of parents willingly donating organs to children and relatives”.

According to medics, organs that can be transplanted are the heart, kidneys, eyes, liver, lungs, pancreas, intestine, and thymus. Tissues include bones, cornea, skin, heart valves, and veins.

Worldwide, the kidneys are the most commonly transplanted organs, followed closely by the liver and the heart.

Speaking to The New Times, the Director of Kibagabaga hospital, Dr. Christian Ntizimana, said the decree encourages hospitals to move to another level of medical treatment.

“Kibagabaga hospital does not conduct organ transplants because we don’t have the facilities and specialists, but now we are going to look at possibilities of requesting for assistance from the Ministry of Health to facilitate us with all necessities so we can also conduct those advanced treatment too,” said Dr. Ntizimana.

Scientifically, organ donors may be alive or brain dead. Tissue may be recovered from donors who are cardiac dead – up to 24 hours past the cessation of heartbeat.  Most tissues (with the exception of corneas) can be preserved and stored for up to five years, meaning they can be “banked”.

In an interview with an organ recipient, Micheline Kabega, 49, who had kidney failure in 2001, many are forced to travel out of the country to get treatment.

“I spent a lot of money on air tickets to and from Belgium for treatment; if we can have this life saving treatment, done in  our country, then it’s a clear indication that Rwanda’s medical sector is highly advanced. I am happy about the new development,” said Kabega.

According to doctors, transplantation medicine is one of the most challenging and complex areas of modern medicine. Some of the key areas for medical management are the problems of transplant rejection, during which the body has an immune response to the transplanted organ, possibly leading to transplant failure and the need to immediately remove the organ from the recipient.

edwin.musoni@newtimes.co.rw

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