Transplantation of Human Organs Bill may get final nod during this session

Ramesh Shankar, MumbaiWednesday, August 3, 2011, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

The Transplantation of Human Organs (Amendment) Bill, which was introduced in Lok Sabha way back on December 18, 2009, is likely to receive the final nod from Parliament during the ongoing session as the Bill has been listed for 'consideration and passing'. The Bill, which is an amendment to the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994, seeks to make the organs transplantation more transparent and patient friendly, and also for imposing stringent penalties on persons/hospitals violating the provisions of the Act.

Earlier, after the introduction of the Bill in Lok Sabha on December 18, 2009, the Bill was referred to the Parliamentary standing committee attached to the union health ministry for its scrutiny. After examining the Bill in detail, the standing committee laid the report on the Table of Lok Sabha on August 4, 2010. Once the Bill is passed in Parliament, which looks a certainty during this session, it will be sent to the President for her consent. Once the President signs the Bill, it becomes an Act of Parliament and will come into effect in the country.

Though the central government had enacted The Transplantation of Human Organs Act to control the human organ trade in the country almost 16 years ago, there were widespread reports of violations of the law by the unscrupulous elements in the country for economic gains. Experts in the human organ transplantation field have been demanding to the government to amend the law to curb the unlawful activities in the field also to make it patient-friendly.

The health ministry's initiative to amend the law comes in the wake of this background as there were repeated reports about a thriving human organ trade in the country and the consequential exploitation of economically weaker sections of the society. There was an increasing perception among the common people that while the Act has not been effective in curbing commercial transactions in organ transplant, it has thwarted genuine cases due to the complicated and long drawn process involving organ donation.

As the voice against the Act became louder, the central government held a national consultation on the need to have an effective regulation of organ transplantation in the country. State governments and various sections of civil society were also consulted during the process. Ultimately, a proposal to comprehensively amend the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994, was submitted to the union cabinet for its consideration.

The amended Bill will have several new features including the expansion of the definition of the term ‘near relatives’ to include grandparents and grandchildren. Besides, the new amendment will make it mandatory for the ICU/Treating Medical Staff to request relatives of brain dead patients for organ donation. The amendment also seeks to regulate the transplantation of organs for foreign nationals and also to provide for Swap Donations of organs.

The new amendment seeks to prevent the exploitation of minors and for the enucleation of corneas by a trained technician, to enable a surgeon/physician and an anesthetist/intensivist to be included in the medical board in the event of non availability of a neurosurgeon/neurologist for certification of brain death.

The amendments will also empower the central government to prescribe the composition of Authorisation Committees and to empower Union Territories to set up their own authorization committees. It will also provide for the establishment of Advisory Committees for Appropriate Authorities and will vest in Appropriate Authorities, the power to summon persons, seek production of documents, issue search warrants, etc.

The amendment seeks to establish a National Organ Retrieval, Banking & Transplantation Network and the development and maintenance of a national registry of the recipients of organ transplants. It also seeks to create the position of a ‘Transplant Coordinator’ in all hospitals registered for organ retrieval and or transplantation and will provide for the registration of Non Government Organizations working in the field of organ retrieval and or transplantation in any manner whatsoever.