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UHRC, Law Society Demand Amendments in Human Organ and Transplantation Bill

Shifra Lukwago, a Commissioner at UHRC pointed out that Clause 88 of the Bill prohibits commercial dealings in human material for transplantation, yet Clause 88 (2)(a) allows for payments that do not constitute financial gain in particular compensation for living donors for loss of earning caused by the removal of an organ.
ULS and UHRC officials making submissions about the Human Organs and Transplantation Bill, 2021 before Parliament's Committe on Health. Photo by Dominic Ochola

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The Uganda Human Rights Commission – UHRC and Uganda Law Society – ULS have punched holes in the Human Organ and Transplantation Bill, 2021.

Presenting their submissions before the Health Committee of Parliament on Wednesday, UHRC is concerned that Clause 88 of the Bill relating to the compensation for loss of earnings may be exploited to cause commercial dealings in human material for transplantation.

Shifra Lukwago, a Commissioner at UHRC pointed out that Clause 88 of the Bill prohibits commercial dealings in human material for transplantation, yet Clause 88 (2)(a) allows for payments that do not constitute financial gain in particular compensation for living donors for loss of earning caused by the removal of an organ.

According to Lukwago, the Bill does not indicate how donors will be assisted to medically and psychologically recover and who meets the cost for the case of vulnerable persons, cognizant of the fact that the process of organ transplantation is very expensive.

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Lawyer Monica Kyamazima, the Country Director of Willow International which works to end trafficking in Uganda pointed out that Clause 73(a) of the Bill is unlawful because it gives express approval to a minor to give consent to an organ donation during transplant yet the legal framework in Uganda does not permit a child below the age of 18 to make consent.

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Kyamazima who presented the Uganda Law Society President, Phiona Nabaasa Wall explained that under Clause 54 of the Bill, there should therefore provide protocols of withholding consent to donate organs.

The Law Society proposes that Clauses 63 and 68 of the Bill should also cater for the respect of religious or societal norms that may affect the giving of consent to donate organs even in instances of the potential donor being brain dead or otherwise deceased.

The advocates are concerned about Clause 52 of the Bill which tackles the criteria and priority of the waiting list relating to who gets priority to receive an organ, tissue, or cell.

They proposed that the Bill should specify how patients will be prioritized, in terms of urgency, the severity of illness, and age.

The activists are concerned about the Government's readiness in terms of human resource readiness, expertise, and infrastructure once the law is enacted. Clause 3 of the Bill specifies that donations and transplantation of human organs, tissue, and cell include; kidneys, heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, intestines, bone marrow, and skin among others.

While Clause 14 of the Bill provides for the Council to investigate any complaint of breach of any of the provisions of the Act, the advocates argue that the Bill in its current form does not provide for any redress procedures for the donors or their relatives in cases where surgery is mishandled.

Currently, Uganda has no law governing the transplanting of human organs and yet the need for it is increasingly becoming an important part of health care that requires urgent attention.

The Health Committee Chairperson Dr. Charles Ayume, who doubles as the MP for Koboko Municipality reiterated that human organs in Uganda have oftentimes been unlawfully transplanted, donated, and even stolen especially in Middle East countries because of the absence of the law to regulate it.

On July 5th, 2022, the Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng tabled the Bill in the House seeking to regulate organ and tissue donation and transplant in Uganda. The Bill designates Mulago National Referral Hospital as the pioneering transplant center.

It also prescribes the criteria to be followed in an organ transplant, establishes standards for storage for harvested organs, and establishes an organ and tissue database and reporting requirements among others.