Voluntary donors beyond near relatives can donate kidneys to patients with renal failure, the High Court ruled yesterday.
At present, the law allows only parents, children, brothers and sisters, spouse, grandparents, grandchildren, cousins, maternal and paternal uncles and aunts to donate their kidneys to patients.
The HC bench of Justice Moyeenul Islam Chowdhury and Justice Khandaker Diliruzzaman delivered the verdict on a writ petition filed in 2017 regarding kidney donations.
Referring to the court order, the petitioner’s lawyer Rashna Imam yesterday said the voluntary donors could either be someone known to the patient, a friend or a relative not included in the list of near relations as per the Organ Transplantation Act-1999 (amended in 2018).
The HC ordered the government to amend the act within six months incorporating a provision to allow emotional donors, Deputy Attorney General Saifuddin Khaled told The Daily Star.
The court also said the voluntary donors would have to be selected after their physical and mental health check-ups and drug addicts would not be allowed to donate.
Rashna told this newspaper that the HC in its verdict also asked the authentication board, formed at hospital-level following the 2018 amendment to the act, to verify the emotional donations and carry out enquiries to ensure kidneys are not being bought and sold.
The court laid out guidelines for the authentication board following the rules practiced in India, she said.
The guideline includes examination of documents and photos to establish relationship between the kidney donor and recipient, and the financial status of both parties.
Rashna said her client was looking forward to the changes in the law.
In 2017, Fatema Zohra filed a petition with the HC challenging the constitutionality of sections 2 (ga), 3 and 6 of the Organ Transplantation Act 1999. These sections mainly focused on the definition of the related persons.
Fatema donated a kidney to her ailing daughter Fahmida, but that kidney too was damaged a year later. She managed a donor for her daughter but the person could not donate because of the law.
Later, Fatema submitted the petition before the HC seeking necessary orders.
On August 24, 2017, the HC issued a rule asking the government to explain as to why the above-mentioned sections of the act should not be declared unconstitutional.
While Rashna argued for the petitioner, DAG Saifuddin Khaled represented the state and ZI Khan Panna appeared for Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) as an intervener in the case.
An expert committee, as per the HC’s order, submitted a report to the HC in October this year saying that there was no need to allow voluntary donors beyond certain relatives as it might lead to several problems, including organ trafficking.
It said the inclusion of a provision allowing voluntary kidney donors might give the rich the chance to exploit the poor by offering them benefits or subjecting them to physical and mental torture.
The seven-member committee was led by Md Rafiqul Islam, president of Bangladesh Renal Association and pro-vice chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.
Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, who voluntarily attended a hearing on November 7, told the HC that the law needs to be amended so that any healthy person other than relatives could donate organs.
He also said that there must be a provision in the law so that poor people were not victimised and the donors are compensated appropriately.