The Legislative Assembly unanimously passed a private member’s motion Thursday resolving for the government to consider establishing an organ donor and transplant programme.
The motion was brought by backbench MLA Alfonso Wright, who gave a detailed overview of the history of organ donor programmes, the views of various religions on the subject and the growing demand for more donors as medical science advances.
‘There is a serious shortage of donors,’ he said, noting that there were more than 99,000 people on waiting lists for various organ transplants in the US. ‘This means [people] will die before suitable organs become available.’
Mr. Wright said each organ and tissue donor could save or improve the lives of up to 50 people. He said the productive use of a deceased person’s organs also helps grieving loved ones cope with their loss.
‘While the need for organ transplants continually increases, those willing to donate are not keeping up.’
It is possible for many organs be transplanted, including hearts, kidneys, livers, lungs, pancreases, and intestines, Mr. Wright said.
‘Organs cannot be stored and must be transplanted within hours after being removed from a body.’
The UK initiated its organ donating programme 60 years ago on 5 July, Mr. Wright said, adding that it will celebrate the 18th National Transplant Week starting on 8 July.
Although he did not know if a local organ transplant programme was feasible in a place as small as the Cayman Islands, Mr. Wright said the country could probably partner with a neighbouring jurisdiction.
Backbench MLA Moses Kirkconnell supported Mr. Wright’s motion, saying it was timely and would further the development of the country.
Mr. Kirkconnell said that when Cayman residents die in places where there are organ donor and transplant programmes, families are often faced with the difficult decision of trying to figure out what their loved one would have wanted. He said having an established organ donor programme would help everyone involved.
‘It benefits the one that receives, the one that gives and also the family so they would know the right thing to do.’
MLA Rolston Anglin said the Opposition recognised the merits of the motion, partially because it raised awareness of the organ donorship.
‘Culturally, it’s not necessarily something a lot of Caymanians consider,’ he said, adding that the matter was something that deserved ‘front burner’ attention by government.
Health Minister Anthony Eden said 18 Caymanians had received organ transplants overseas in the past five years.
He also said there were about 40 people going through kidney dialysis in Cayman.
‘Nine patients have been evaluated and determined to be candidates for transplants,’ he said, adding, however, that there is a two-year waiting list for kidneys.
‘Many [of the patients] have been on dialysis for years,’ he said. ‘Some will not be fortunate to live long enough to get a transplant.’
Mr. Eden said he fully endorsed an organ pooling programme because it would give Caymanians ‘greater access and shorter waiting times and increase their chances of getting an organ’.
Picking up on the fact that 18 Caymanians had received organ transplants overseas, Mr. Wright noted that Cayman did not contribute to the organ pool.
‘I think we should do something about that.’