By Noushaba T. Rashid

The Saudi Gazette recently reported from Dammam that for the past 2 years, as many as 410 Saudis have turned to black market organs, mainly kidneys, for illegal transportation.

Dr. Faisal Shaheen, the director of the Saudi Center for Organ Transplants (SCOT) states that 220 Saudis bought organs for transplants from several markets, including Pakistan, China and Egypt in 2013. 190 other Saudis did the same in 2012 at their own personal expense. Although the transplant operations have been successful for the most part, 40% of them had to seek further treatment for many different side-effects. Because of the various problems, doctors discovered that the patients had bought the organs from the black market and had them illegally transplanted and imported into the center. The World Health Organization (WHO) was promptly informed of the discovery. Because there is nothing to prevent Saudis from traveling outside of the country for organ transplants, it is hard to detect how many Saudis have died from botched surgeries. The Saudi Kingdom has specialized hospitals and centers for organ transplants where patients go to after being put on a waiting list. The Health Ministry could also send a few patients abroad to specialized organ centers.

Currently, the WHO is exploring the possibility of implementing some kind of organ code. This would oblige patients to disclose where they obtained their organs. Shaheen expresses that this way, many might be discouraged from gong to the black market. Dr. Shaheen also said that there are more than 7,000 patients in need of a kidney. 50-60 percent of those receiving treatment for kidney related illness within the kingdom are in need of transplants. 77 out of the 750 families of brain dead patients agreed to let the patients be organ donors in 2013. SCOT is actively raising public awareness on the importance of organ donations. However, conflicting religious edicts have made it hard for many to become donors. Experts want to incorporate students into these efforts and raise the importance of donating.

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