Organ transplant law ready for drafting

New legislation that will allow the harvesting and transplanting of human organs and tissues locally will soon be drawn up after a committee set up to create a framework for the new law completes its work next week.

It is illegal to carry out organ transplants now in Cayman.

The Ministry of Health set up the committee following the approval of a private member’s motion moved by George Town MLA Ellio Solomon in the Legislative Assembly in September.

Health minister Mark Scotland said the committee has been meeting for the past eight weeks and plans to submit its report to the Ministry of Health before the end of this year.

“The committee has benefitted tremendously from a large amount of work that was done by a subcommittee of the Health Practice Commission some years ago, which has meant that the current committee has been able to make substantial progress in a relatively short time,” Mr. Scotland said.

The Organ and Tissue Transplant Review Committee includes representatives from the medical community, legal community, a transplant recipient and legal and policy advisors from the government. Mr. Scotland said that once the committee’s report is received, it will be sent to Cabinet for approval in principle and for the issuance of drafting instructions. He plans to table the proposed bill in the Legislative Assembly in the first quarter of next year.

Mr. Solomon, who is chairman of the committee, said its final meeting, which had been due to be held on Wednesday, 8 December, had been rescheduled to next week, at which point the members will finalise their report.

At least 10 people in Cayman are on a waiting list for kidney donations and nearly 20 people have been recipients of donated kidneys, according to kidney specialist Dr. Frits Hendriks, who is a member of the committee.

The majority of those who have undergone kidney transplants have received those from living relatives or friends, he said.More than 40 people are on dialysis at the Cayman Islands Hospital in George Town. Most have to visit the dialysis unit three times a week to undergo treatments that last three to four hours.

By having a law that will enable local harvesting of organs and tissue, Cayman would be in a position to join an international donation network, Mr. Scotland told legislators during a debate on Mr. Solomon’s motion in September.

He said that because Cayman is not a donating party, local patients are low on the priority list for transplant consideration from overseas sources.

The creation of legislation to legalise local organ donations and transplants was one of the stipulations in an agreement between the Cayman Islands Government and Dr. Devi Shetty to set up a large medical tourism hospital in Cayman.

Mr. Solomon said the proposed legislation was one that Cayman required and that had been considered long before the Shetty hospital was mooted.

The legislation will mean that, once the necessary facilities and surgeons are in place, people who are suitable donor matches can donate kidneys to patients locally and will no longer have to travel to the US to undergo surgery for kidney transplant operations.

“It is hard for the families. [The patients] need to stay there on average for two months after the transplant, sometimes longer. The first two months are critical after a transplant,” Dr. Hendriks said.

While health insurance usually covers the cost of the operation, family members who travel overseas to support the patient and donor likely have to pay for their own travel and accommodation.

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