In what seems like a change of heart, Mr Khaw said that the Ministry of Health will be looking into the possibility of legalizing organ trading; with a catch. Any payment made to the donor must come from a third party. The rationale behind this idea is to distant the recipient as far away as possible from the donor, hence diminishing direct contact and exploitation from the poor.

Essentially, it feels like pushing the duty of responsibility of accountability to the organizations which are willing to help. If money is involved, then the organization will help to ensure that whatever comes in on the left hand goes out of the right hand – although I suspect that there may be some form of an "administrative fee" involved. In the event if anything untoward happens, the organization may be the first to be informed who will then have to investigate and notify the ministry.

So what kind of organizations will be involved? I am thinking organizations of religions, charitable organizations and other left-winged organizations. I am not sure why, but I feel that in times of need, everyone suddenly turns religious and start approaching these institutions for help. Otherwise, a government agency may be set up to manage this. They may also charge a lesser administrative fee. =)

Perhaps this idea is still too immatured to be discussed at this point in time since we have no idea where the government is heading towards. However, I do laud the government for doing something instead of just criminalizing everything and feeding the black market indirectly. 

Changes to organ transplant law to meet demand for transplants

SINGAPORE is considering legalising kidney trading to help meet demand for kidney transplants, the city-state’s health minister said on Monday.

The Health Ministry will examine the feasibility of providing payments to unrelated donors to augment the supply of kidneys, Mr Khaw Boon Wan said in Parliament, acknowledging that the suggestion has stirred controversy.

‘We should not reject any idea just because it is radical or controversial,’ Mr Khaw said. ‘We may be able to find an acceptable way to allow a meaningful compensation for some living, unrelated kidney donors, without breaching ethical principles or hurting the sensitivities of others.’

Mr Khaw said the ministry would review possible changes to current legislation to allow payments for donations from third parties such as those from the charity and religious sectors. Under the proposal, which would need to be approved by Parliament to become law, patients would also get help in finding donors.

‘There are desperate patients out there wishing to live and desperately poor people willing to exchange a kidney for a hopefully improved life,’ he said. ‘Criminalising organ trading does not eliminate it … it merely breeds a black market.’

Mr Khaw also said the Health Ministry would push to amend existing laws on organ transplants to remove an age limit on deceased donors, currently set at 60 years, because ‘the suitability of the organ depends on its condition rather than the age of the donor’.

The two initiatives should enable Singapore to carry out 70 per cent of the kidney transplants needed every year – up from 50 per cent currently, the minister said.

The two initiatives should raise Singapore’s sufficiency in kidney transplants from 50 per cent to 70 per cent, the minister said.

He said about 1,000 new cases of kidney failure are diagnosed every year, with nearly 40 per cent unable to survive the first year.

Mr Khaw’s comments follow the cases of two Indonesian men who were jailed and fined by a Singapore court earlier this month after being convicted of agreeing to sell their kidneys to two patients in Singapore.

Selling or buying organs or blood is illegal in Singapore, as in many other countries, and carries a penalty of up to 12 months’ jail, or a fine of up to S$10,000 or both. — AP

Source: Straits Times Interactive,

Consideration of a 3rd party to foot the bill:

Compensation for organ donors: Idea under study

Solution may lie in a third party making the payment, thus distancing donor and recipient

By Lee Hui Chieh

THE giving of compensation to some organ donors is set to emerge on the horizon. But there will be a catch.

The compensation for the donors is to come from a third party, like a charity or religious group, and not directly from organ recipients.

Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan indicated the prospect of such an outcome yesterday when he highlighted three ways the Government is considering for augmenting the supply of kidneys.

But he foresees the other two measures doing better in raising the supply.

They are: removing altogether the 60-year age limit when getting organs from a person who had died; and setting up a registry that will find a match among donors who are unrelated to the patient.

These two measures could raise the transplant rate within 10 years to 70 per cent of the demand from eligible kidney patients, said Mr Khaw. Currently, only half the demand is met.

The Health Ministry hopes to implement these changes over the next one year.

Organ trading has been the subject of heated debate in Singapore this month, since well-known retailer Tang Wee Sung was named for allegedly trying to buy a kidney. He has been charged.

The controversy led MPs like Madam Halimah Yacob (Jurong GRC) and Dr Lam Pin Min (Ang Mo Kio GRC) to ask about safeguards against illegal organ trading and legalising such trading. Madam Halimah chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee on Health and Dr Lam is the deputy.

Mr Khaw’s suggestion yesterday to allow compensation for some donors stems from requests made by charities and religious groups.

They had asked him if they could provide compensation – in cash or kind – to organ donors and their families to acknowledge the altruistic act of the donation.

The move is likely to stir controversy. However, Mr Khaw believes the solution lies in distancing the donor from the patient.

‘The more you can break the direct relationship between the donor and the recipient, (the more) the unethical considerations can be minimised.

‘So I think this is a possible option that we should explore, and certainly I’m studying this carefully, with a view to doing so.’

Exploitation of the poor, Mr Khaw has previously said, is his biggest worry. He believes that if a way can be found to minimise such exploitation, paying for organs may be acceptable to people.

He urged Singaporeans yesterday to ‘not reject any idea just because it is radical or controversial’.

‘The reality is…there are many desperate patients out there wishing to live, and desperately poor people willing to exchange a kidney for a hopefully improved life.

‘This is the stark reality and the dilemma confronted by many in such desperate situations.

‘We must therefore take a practical approach. Criminalising organ trading does not eliminate it…it merely breeds a black market.’

Most countries are short of kidneys, except for two: Norway and Spain, which are almost self-sufficient.

But what is perhaps most striking to Mr Khaw is that they rely on altruistic organ donations.

‘In Singapore, we have not yet maximised the yield through altruistic organ donations. Let us emulate them and push altruistic organ donations to their maximum potential,’ he said.

Attitudes towards compensating kidney donors have also been gradually changing, Mr Khaw pointed out.

He cited the views of Singapore Medical Association past president Arthur Lim and Nobel laureate Gary Becker.

Prof Becker, an American professor in economics and sociology, had argued that markets in organs are the best available way for a patient to get organ transplants more quickly than under the present system.

But this may be arguable in the light of the situation in Iran.

It is the only country in the world where organ trading is legal. Yet its transplant rate remains low.

Source: Straits Times Interactive,

Article extracted on 22nd July 2008

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