PETALING JAYA: Owing to the lack of organs for transplant in the country, a 59-year-old kidney failure patient forked out close to half a million ringgit to fly to another country to have an illegal kidney transplant done.
Lee (not her real name) resorted to spending over US$100,000 (RM406,740) for the illegal transplant last year.
“When you are in that situation, you become desperate.
“I felt that there was no other solution,” said the businesswoman and mother of two.
On Thursday, The Star reported that 40,000 Malaysians are on dialysis but only 81 kidney transplants were carried out last year.
The lack of organs for transplant, despite it being more cost-effective and offering a better quality of life than dialysis, had driven Lee and others to seek out commercial transplants overseas out of desperation.
However, the Health Ministry is against Malaysians undergoing such procedures as it is illegal in many countries.
It is proposing the Organ and Tissue Transplantation Bill, which will ban organ trading and advertising for such purpose.
It will also ensure transplants are done by qualified personnel and prevent any exploitation or coercion in cases of living donors.
The Bill was proposed because the current Human Tissues Act 1974 has a limited scope, governing only matters related to consent and deceased donors.
Recalling her experience, Lee said she used to go for dialysis three times a week, for six hours each session and it was “painful and draining”.
She was on the organ wait list, but was concerned that with the low organ donation rate in Malaysia, it “could take forever”.
Lee said her brother wanted to donate one of his kidneys to her but a month before the operation, he had a stroke while her sister, a diabetic, was not a suitable donor.
She hoped the Government would improve efforts in promoting organ transplantation, especially in cutting red tape for altruistic organ donations.
“I have learnt to appreciate every second of my life.
“There are some cultural beliefs against organ donation but Malaysians should realise that donating organs after death is a noble act. It is a precious gift of life to others like me,” she said.
To increase the number of organ donations, Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said death audits had been carried out in 16 hospitals to identify potential organ donors.
“The ministry will also explore the option of strengthening team effort, by involving surgeons from the private sector and universities.
“We will consider hiring foreign transplant surgeons as an interim measure and training our young surgeons to take up organ transplant as a sub-specialty,” he said.
Dr Noor Hisham urged more Malaysians to pledge as organ donors, adding that the ministry also needed leaders and politicians to push the agenda forward.
For more information on how to sign up as an organ donor, visit www.dermaorgan.gov.my.