The recent move on the restriction of donation for kidney patients by the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs (MoHCA) has left both the patients and the Bhutan Kidney Foundation worried.
The foundation suggested for stern measures put in place to avoid the misuse of funds generated through donations, and not the restriction on donations as many patients are from poor families.
The misuse of donation funds by the relatives and friends of some patients were reported, and purpose of bearing expenses in treating patients and donors are not being served. Therefore, MoHCA restricted the collection of donations for kidney patients.
The MoHCA Minister, Damcho Dorji, said that kidney donation are being restricted as the ministry does not see the need for the patients to collect money to pay for the expenses incurred for the treatment done outside the country .
Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said the government bears all the medical cost and travel expenses of the patients, donors and escorts. He said patients can choose to pay or compensate the donors if they see it necessary, however, he said there is a very thin line between compensating and buying an organ. He said Bhutan is a party to World Health Organization guidelines on the illegal trafficking of human organs and also party to a few international conventions on illegal trafficking of human organs.
He added that the country’s penal code also prohibits trafficking in human organs. Lyonpo said that the amount collected through donation will be used and it has been used in many cases to buy kidneys illegally.
Lyonpo shared that earlier MoHCA had been issuing letters for collection of donations for kidney patients simply on humanitarian grounds, but in the process, the ministry realized and learned that the contributions are used to buy human organs and the donations was being misused.
“We are informed that people are misusing money since they don’t have to pay for the expenses incurred in transplantation of kidney” Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said. He also added that the ministry was informed that even after the patients pass away, the relatives continue to collect donations within the duration of the certificate or letter issued by the ministry for a period of six months.
According to the minster, there have been reports of these patients harassing not only the general public, but also the tourists and they have been lining up in gatherings and crowd asking for donations. Lyonpo said that the government cannot be an accomplice to an illegal act.
However, Lyonpo said that the ministry is still working with the Kidney Foundation and would encourage the kidney foundation to collect contributions, provided the contributions are used for purposes other than buying a human organ.