February 28, 2024

New Philippines health chief sparks fears of return of kidney trade

Transplant industry could return

Filipino Rommel Villanueva, 30, once had a spare healthy
kidney. It is now gone, transplanted into a foreigner who paid US$60,000. Five
years later, Rommel is as poor as ever, with the 80,000 pesos given him by the
kidney broker long gone, he has only a long scar across the side of his stomach
and the bitter memory of a raw deal. He was promised P100,000 but left the
government’s National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) with only P80,000
and only one kidney.

Rommel is just one of hundreds of kidney donors in only
three poor towns in a remote corner of the Quezon province. The World Health
Organisation (WHO) has called the Philippines a global organ trafficking
hotspot. In 2008 kidney sales to foreigners were banned by then-Health
Secretary Francisco Duque.

However, this is in danger of being reversed by the new
Secretary, Dr Enrique Ona. Ona is also one of the country’s leading kidney
transplant surgeons and was a key player in the Philippines’ kidney tourism industry.
The Philippine Society of Nephrology, the national association of kidney
specialists, has strongly protested Ona’s appointment. But Dr Ona seems to be
pressing ahead with his plans. Earlier this month he sponsored a conference in
Manila on “Incentivized Donation from Living and Deceased Organ Donors.”

The Asian Task Force on Prohibition, Prevention and
Elimination of Organ Trafficking has
written to President Benigno Aquino III
demanding that Dr Ona “explain his
justification of co-hosting a meeting at which the only point of view
represented will be one that completely rejects the ethical principles now well
established by the World Health Assembly and the international community of
health professionals.” ~ GMANews, Nov

Jared Yee
organ trafficking