Bill to set up organ transplant agency, registry passed in National Assembly

…APNU/AFC lambasted for lack of support, spreading misinformation

The Human Organ and Tissue Transplant Bill 2021, which will pave the way for setting up of an agency and a registry that will manage the transplant of human organs in Guyana, has been passed in the National Assembly, with the parliamentary Opposition lambasted for their lack of support for the Bill.

Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony, Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, & APNU MP Dr Karen Cummings

Presenting the bill at the 35th sitting of the National Assembly on Monday was Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony, who explained that the Bill was crafted with input from local and international medical experts and that it follows the revised World Health Organisation (WHO) Guiding Principles on Human Organ Transplantation.
In fact, he explained that all thirteen of the guidelines are reflected in the various sections of the Bill. These principles include ensuring a separation between physicians who treat patients and who harvest tissue, avoiding the harvesting of tissue from minors except for exceptional circumstances and the avoidance of monetary payments or other rewards for donations.
According to Anthony, special safeguards will be established for all donors who wish to donate organs, but particularly for minors. This includes minors only being able to give consent to remove a regenerative organ. And to manage these safeguards, an organ transplant agency will be set up.
“This Bill will establish a Human Organ and Tissue Transplant Agency, which will oversee all future transplants of cells, biofluids, tissues and organs in Guyana. A National Donor and Transplant Registry will be established to manage the process effectively.”
“This registry will have a list of the persons who have consented to donations and another list of patients who require these donations. It prescribes the eligibility for live adult donors before they are enrolled into the registry, depending on whether their donation is a regenerative or non-regenerative organ,” Minister Anthony further explained.
Anthony explained that in each case where a minor is desirous of donating a regenerative organ, this donation must be assessed by an Independent Assessment Committee. Unless the Independent Assessment Committee unanimously agreed, the donation cannot proceed.
“The Bill also allowed for the donation of organs after the patient dies. Section Nine deals with all issues relating to such a donation. Again, in this section, there is the appropriate balance of the principles of altruism, autonomy, dignity, non-maleficence, futility and equity,” the Minister explained.

A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) point person on health, Dr Karen Cummings, meanwhile acknowledged the need for such a Bill in her presentation to the National Assembly, when she drew reference to the demand for organ transplant.
“The increasing incidence of vital organ failure and the inadequate number of organs, especially from cadavers, has created a gap, a wide gap between organs acquired and organ demand. And has resulted in very long waiting times to receive an organ, as well as an increasing number of deaths while waiting.”
At the same time, however, Dr Cummings raised several concerns regarding the prospect of the Organ Transplant Bill. Her concerns ranged from whether it would be culturally acceptable to whether it would result in ethnic minorities being targeted for organ harvesting. Such utterances were lambasted by members of the Government side when given the floor, with Attorney General Anil Nandlall questioning whether the former Health Minister had read the Bill.
“The worst part of it is, the honourable member stood on that podium and found in this Bill that there were some elements, which of course she did not detail for us, in the Bill that encouraged ethnic cleansing. Ethnic cleansing! Now you have to be of a special mind to read that is so scientific, so clinical, so dispassionate, and unearth from that ethnic cleansing. I don’t understand!”
“And then the honourable member read into this Bill grave platforms for corruption… and accuse the Government and say she is not sure whether this Government will not make this Bill corrupt. The Government has nothing to do with this Bill, other than the Minister giving policy direction!” Nandlall also said.
The Bill also received support from Deputy Speaker and leader of the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) Lennox Shuman, who also urged that all services that come under the Bill’s purview must be accessible to persons in the hinterland. Following the reading of the Bill, it was passed in the National Assembly.