A law passed five years ago seeking to regulate the donation of organs and human tissue for medical purposes in the Cayman Islands comes into legal effect Tuesday.
The Human Tissue Transplant Law, 2013, was given a commencement date of July 31 by Cabinet.
The legislation, first proposed by then-George Town MLA Ellio Solomon, will make it easier for tissue transplant procedures to be performed here.
“The ability to have a transplant center on island will make an immeasurable difference to patients who face organ failure or require organ/tissue donation,” Health Minister Dwayne Seymour said earlier this year.
According to the legislation, tissue donation will only be done on a voluntary basis. Under the law, tissues or organs will be harvested from a deceased person only if a licensed medical practitioner is satisfied that the person gave consent to do so while they were still alive.
Only those who are 18 or older may register as organ donors. Children can donate regenerative body tissue, but only with parental consent.
The legislation passed in 2013 does not apply to fetal tissue, sperm or ova. It also requires that consent be given to remove organs or tissue from a human body and prohibits someone from removing tissue or organs from those who cannot legally give consent.
The law makes illegal trading of human body parts a crime and establishes a council to review the process of tissue donation and transplants, including inspections of any animal tissue imported into Cayman that would be used during transplant surgery.
The issue of human tissue transplants was first reviewed in 2005 by a government-appointed committee and came to the fore again when Dr. Devi Shetty proposed his Narayana University Medical Centre in the Cayman Islands, or Health City Cayman Islands, as it is now formally known. The organ transplant proposal was also brought up and approved in a private members’ motion filed in the Legislative Assembly during 2010 by Mr. Solomon.
In practice, tissue transplant surgeries have been performed in Cayman since 2013. However, tissues or organs could not be harvested here and sourcing them from overseas is a complex and time-consuming process. Often, patients find they must go overseas to either obtain the needed tissue or for the surgeries, or both.
Following a public comment period and approval by Cabinet of regulations to the law, a Human Tissue Transplant Council will be appointed. The council members will create a register that not only allows organs and tissues donated to be kept in Cayman, but which would also allow the British Overseas Territory to become part of an international donation network for human tissue.