GPHC lobbies for law to allow organ transplant from brain-dead patients

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By Isanella Patoir

With over 100 end-stage renal failure patients in Guyana currently awaiting a kidney transplant with no donors, the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) continues to fight for the necessary legislation to save lives and help resolve the burden of kidney failure in Guyana.

This can be done through cadaveric transplants, where organs are harvested from brain-dead patients and donated to others.

The public hospital has the capability and equipment for this operation but there is no legislation to govern it. A draft legislation was sent to the Ministry of Health some eight years ago and so far there has been no response.

The Ministry of Public Health in 2017 stated that draft legislation was also being looked at to outlaw commercial human organ harvesting, transplant tourism and organ trafficking.

The mortality rate for end-stage renal failure or kidney failure in Guyana is significantly high. This is according to transplant surgeon and Head of the Kidney Transplant Department at GPHC, Dr Kishore Persaud.

The Dialysis Centre

“Over the past eight years, we have been working with the Ministry of Health to try to get the transplant legislation and be on board and get it moved towards being legalized.

“What that legislation does is it covers the hospital, it covers the doctors doing the transplant and everyone involved…it even covers the relative that will actually participate in making the decision to donate these organs,” Dr Persaud told the News Room during an interview Tuesday.

While there was no study done, Dr Persaud suggested that if 100 persons are diagnosed with kidney failure, 80% of them die within two years.  The most popular treatment for kidney failure in Guyana is hemodialysis, but this has proven to be very expensive.

“Dialysis is expensive and patients cannot afford it, they go for one or two sessions and then they skip, because of the cost they do not comply and that is what is causing our patients to die out,” Dr Persaud said.

Head of the Kidney Transplant Department at GPHC, Dr Kishore Persaud.

The most common causes of kidney failure worldwide are diabetes and high blood pressure. Dr Persaud, in giving a breakdown of cases in Guyana, said there are other causes of kidney failure, such the immunological cause or drug abuse. But diabetes and high blood pressure account for almost 90% of kidney failure in Guyana.

“You tend to see kidney failure caused by the immunologic cause in the younger age group 20 to 25. Diabetes and high blood pressure patients with kidney failure are in their 50s and 60s.”

A total of eight successful kidney transplant surgeries were done in 2019 at the Georgetown Hospital; the patients are all healthy and living a normal life. So far for 2020, only two kidney transplant surgeries were done.

“As soon as we finish the first two, the COVID-19 pandemic hit Guyana and because of the restriction and operating schedule for the hospital we have been unable to proceed with any further transplant,” Dr Persaud stated.

In 2018, the Georgetown Hospital performed its first paired-kidney transplant surgery.

This basically means that if donors and their recipient do not a match, an exchange of kidneys is done with another donor-recipient pair in the same situation once the pairs are a match.

Dr Persaud explained that there are over 30 patients who have donors and are awaiting surgery but there are over 100 who need a transplant but have no donors.

 

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