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10 February, 2019 00:00 00 AM

New act fails to rein in illegal organ trade

New act fails to rein in illegal organ trade

The illegal organ trade in the country is going on unabated despite a law passed last year. Parliament had passed the Transplantation of Human Organs Act 2017 on January 9 last year to replace the old Organ Transplant Act enacted in 1999. As per the new Act, grandparents, grandchildren, and first cousins would also be able to donate organs. The previous act only allowed parents, spouses, children, siblings and blood-related aunts and uncles as donors.

The 1999 Act had a provision for minimum three years and maximum seven years of rigorous imprisonment or Tk 3 lakh fine or both for violation of the law. The new act reduced the maximum jail term to three years and increased the fine to Tk 10 lakh fine or both.

Both the acts said organ removal for transplant cannot be done without government consent in any hospital. However, public hospitals with specialised units for transplants did not need government approval. Transplantable organs including kidney, liver, bone, eye, heart, lung and tissues must be taken from bodies with a beating heart, said both acts, adding that in the case of eye and bone marrow transplant, the donors need not be blood relatives.

 How effective the new act is?

The 1999 act, which was armed with most of the provisions that the new act has, failed to put a cap in the illegal organ trade in the country.

The Independent found that the advertisements of organ selling still appear even in the leading online news portal of the country.

“I want to sell my Kidney. Blood group A+”, ad like this was found in the classified section of This correspondent called in the mobile number provided with the ad a person named Jasim picked up the phone. He said he is from Bogura. When asked why he wanted to sell his kidney, he replied he needed money to pay off debt.

Jasim said he is not even aware of the new organ transplant act. “I was told by someone who already sold his kidney that I don’t need two kidneys and selling one wouldn’t harm.

Dr Nurul Islam, former director of Directorate of health services told The Independent that a performing, legitimate transplant is an incredibly complex procedure involving scrupulous medical tests and a range of measures to prevent infection and organ rejection.

“The problem is in case of illegal organ trade, all the surgical procedures are done in surreptitious manners since those are not legal and as an aftermath, people who sell their organs suffer from medical complications,” said Dr Nurul.

He admitted that the long running

shortage of organs has prompted an increasing number of organs to be donated by living people illegally.  “The gap between the number of organs legally donated and the number of people waiting for a transplant is increasing. Besides, a rise in diabetes and other diseases has increased demand for bought and sold organs,” he said.

According to Dr Monir Moniruzzaman, an expatriate professor of anthropology at Michigan State University, US, curbing illegal organ trade required honest and strict stances of the Bangladesh authorities and not a new act.

Moniruzzaman has spent over 15 years researching the illegal organ trade’s commodification and exploitation of poor Bangladeshis.  In reply to an email by The Independent, Moniruzzaman said in addition to people being kidnapped and their organs stolen, some willingly sold their organs in the black market through brokers because of extreme poverty.

These brokers contact regional and national syndicates to facilitate medical procedures and find buyers for kidneys and livers. “If there was genuine concern on the Bangladeshi government’s part, then there would have been some actions against these syndicates; but there was none,” he added.

The illegal organ trade in Bangladesh came into focus in 2011 after police busted a network of organ brokers in northern Joypurhat district.

Some of the arrested local brokers told police that more than 50 people in neighbouring villages had sold kidneys or parts of their livers. Police later extended investigations to find out the whole syndicate behind the business.

Since then, however, police have not been very forthcoming about further progress in their investigations.

Incidentally, Moniruzzaman informed that most of the arrested brokers were released on parole and got back into their illegal activities. It indicated that the law enforcers were bribed by them, he alleged.A few of the accused brokers also gave information  about some unscrupulous doctors who were in cahoots with in the illegal trade. “However, none of those doctors was arrested,” claimed Moniruzzaman.

The new act stipulated that if any doctor was convicted under the law, his or her registration from the Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council will be scrapped and if any hospital or clinic violated the law, its organ transplant permit will be revoked and it will be fined.



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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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