EDITORIAL — Work swiftly to approve organ transplantation

While we appreciate government’s prudence in establishing a framework for organ donation and tissue transplant procedures, the matter is – quite literally – one of life and death.

Already, Cayman’s patients and their families have been waiting years for on-island options: The Human Tissue Transplant Law was passed in 2013. The Human Tissue Donation and Transplant Regulations in 2018. The body charged with oversight, the Human Tissue Transplant Council, was formed last August, with its members appointed soon after.

So it is disheartening to learn we may have another year to wait before the council begins licensing tissue banks and making provisions for organ donations here, as the Compass reported this week.

Leaders of the Human Tissue Transplant Council are working with government health officials to “develop a framework to guide the operations of the Council and prioritise their work”, as Ministry of Health Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn told the Compass in a recent email. In fact, the council has met only once since it was created, the Compass learned.

Council member Robert Hamaty stressed the importance of due diligence, telling our reporter that things are progressing behind the scenes. “As soon as that chairman calls a meeting, we’ll attend,” he said.

If anyone understands the urgency of this issue, it is Hamaty, himself a transplant recipient and longtime champion for organ donation. As he told the Compass last year, “My donor, in his last hour, gave me a lifetime.” We urge him and fellow Human Tissue Transplant Council members, particularly Chairwoman Gina Berry, to remember that the stakes could not be higher for many Cayman families facing long waiting lists and exorbitant costs for overseas procedures.

Paving the way for organ transplants would minimise these extra stressors, along with the psychological strain of undergoing life-altering medical procedures far from home. It would allow Cayman Islanders to bequeath vital organs to those who need them after they are gone.

Officials at Health City and the Health Services Authority told the Compass they have qualified transplant physicians on staff and are, or soon could be, ready to perform these life-saving surgeries. Certainly, those in need of heart or kidney or liver transplants are more than ready.

We urge officials and council members to work diligently, and quickly, to implement processes and procedures that protect patient safety and ensure high standards of care.