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Uganda moves to outlaw trade in human organs

BY: BBC

Uganda’s health ministry has proposed a new law aimed in part at preventing the illicit trade in human organs.

The bill on organ donation, which has just gone before parliament, aims to protect the dignity and rights of organ donors and provide an environment through which transplant surgery, which is increasingly sought after in the country, can be done.

As well as outlawing cash-for-organs, if passed, the new measure would create transplant centres, organ banks and council to oversee the process.

It would also provide for organ harvesting from both living and deceased donors.

Ugandans in need of transplant surgery of any kind have to travel abroad - mostly to Kenya, South Africa and India - to access it.

Costs for travel and surgery are prohibitive. A trip to India for a kidney transplant, for example, could set someone back by at least $25,000 (£21,000) and up to $40,000 in travel expenses and medical bills.

On top of this, there is currently a strict official vetting procedure to see if a trip is suitable.

It is also hoped that the law can work towards dismantling the underworld of illegal organ harvesting.

In recent months, there have been at least three reported cases of Ugandan migrant workers returning home from the Middle East allegedly with some organs missing, suspected to have been illegally harvested or sold without consent.

In February, five directors of a labour export agency were charged with aggravated human trafficking, related to a case in which a female migrant worker returned home paralysed, with what are believed to be surgical scars on her stomach, and medical tests indicated that her right kidney was missing.

If the law is passed Uganda would join a handful of African countries, including South Africa and Kenya, that have laws regulating organ donation.