Minister of Health Jane Ruth Aceng
Government through the Ministry of Health has proposed to Parliament to ensure that anyone who participates in the removal of human organs outside a health facility be imprisoned for life and a fine of Shs2bn for illegal removal of an organ within a health facility.
While tabling the Uganda Human Organ Donation and Transplant Bill 2022, Minister of Health Jane Ruth Aceng, said that due to the vacuum in the law, there has been concern about the increase in the illicit trade in and trafficking of human organs, and because of the absence of any law regulating organ transplantation, many Ugandan citizens are seeking for medical care from other countries where organ donation and transplantation is the solution to their health problems.
“This will protect Ugandans from being potential victims of illegal organ transplant. The law aims at protecting the dignity and identity of every person and guarantee, without discrimination, respect for his or her integrity and other rights and fundamental freedoms with regard to donations and transplantation of organs, tissues and cells of human origin,” Aceng said.
Clause 87 of the proposed bill seeks to criminalise the removal of human organs, cell or tissue without authority, with clause87(1) highlighting; “A person who renders his or her services to or at any hospital and who, for purposes of transplantation, conducts, associates with, or helps in any manner, in the removal of any human organ, cell or tissue without authority and contrary to this Act commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand currency points equivalent to Shs2Bn or imprisonment not exceeding twelve years or both.”
The Bill further proposes in clause 87(2) that where a person convicted under subsection (l) is a registered health practitioner, he or she shall be referred to the appropriate Council for necessary action including the removal of his or her name from the register of the Council for a period of ten years for the first offence and permanently for a subsequent offence.
Additionally, in case of illegal removal of human organs under clause 87(3) is carried out outside a hospital environment for purposes of transplantation, conducts, associates with, or helps in any manner, in the removal of any human organ, cell or tissue without authority and contrary to this Act commits an offence and is liable, on conviction to imprisonment for life.
Additionally, in clause 86 Government is seeking to prohibit selling of human organs highlighting that monetary or any other forms of compensation for organs, tissues or cells other than reimbursement of donation-related expenses is prohibited.
The Bill read in part, “(2) The sale of one of the organs such as an eye or kidney by a living donor for financial or any other form of compensation is prohibited.”
In clause 86(3)(a), a person commits an offence if they give or receive a reward for the supply of, or for an offer supply a human organ, cell or tissue; seeks to find a person willing to supply for payment, any human organ, offer to supply any human organ, initiates or negotiates any arrangement involving the giving of a reward for the supply of, or for an offer to supply, any human organ, cell or tissue and is eligible to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand currency points about Shs2Bn or imprisonment not exceeding twenty years or both.
The Ministry of Health has proposed in clause 28 to designate Mulago National Referral Hospital as the pioneer transplant centre for purposes of this Act but the Minister of Health under clause 28(2) may, on the recommendation of the Council, by statutory instrument, designate a hospital as an organ, tissue or cell donation and transplant centre.
In clause 29, other hospitals can apply for designation as transplant centre to the Council that is mandated to carry out due diligence and satisfy itself that the applicant has complied with all the requirements of this Act.
However in Clause 30, Government is proposing to bar designation of a hospital as a transplant centre council unless it is a fully-fledged hospital with a full range of services including routine surgeries, emergency care and other services and has the following- (a) Intensive Care Unit and High Dependent Unit beds dedicated to the transplant programme connected to the theater by a sterile corridor or interconnectivity with dialysis capability.
The hospitals seeking this approval are also required to have specialised medical professionals, including a transplant surgeon, physician, anesthesiologist, intensivist and transplant nurse qualified and experienced in the type of organ, tissue or cells to be harvested and the transplant activities to be carried out.
In order to ensure fair and equitable system, the Council shall ensure that organs, tissues and cells are allocated to patients on the national waiting list in a fair and equitable manner and access to organs, cells and tissues shall be provided without regard to recipient sex, age, religion, race, creed, color or financial standing.
In clause 55, Government is proposing to have human organ transplants to be carried out under special circumstances like tissue, bone marrow and emergency transplants and any person and the designated transplant centre that performs a transplant under these circumstances shall immediately, but in any case not later than 24hours after the transplant procedure, submit a report of the Council.
Failure to report to the Council about the emergency human organ transplant attracts a fine not exceeding fifty thousand currency points about Shs1Bn or imprisonment not exceeding ten years or both.
In clause 72, the Ministry of Health is proposing to prohibit donation from living child.
Also in clause 94, a person who gives consent for any purpose under this Act may revoke the consent at any time before harvesting without giving any justification, however, a person shall not revoke consent or demand back an organ, tissue or cell after the harvesting or transplantation has taken place.