Monday, May 7, 2012
Singapore - Foreign Risks Fail to Deter Singapore's Kidney Patients
Desperate to beat the clock and return to good health, about 30 kidney patients head overseas every year for organ transplants despite the risk of infection and the fact that organ trading is illegal.
Once home, they seek follow-up subsidized care at public hospitals or go to private doctors, with few questions asked about how they got their new kidneys.
A persistent shortage of organs means the waiting list for a kidney from a dead donor here stretches an average of nine years. So some patients — especially those able to pay between $50,000 and $100,000 — are tempted to go elsewhere.
China and India are top destinations because organs are available to foreigners with money, and ethnic similarity makes it easier to obtain a matching kidney.
Aside from a peak of 49 overseas transplants in 2005, the number in recent years has hovered between 23 and 39. Between 2006 and 2010, about two dozen returned with medical problems.
In the past, some returned with serious infections, mostly hepatitis, diabetes and heart problems.
The Health Ministry said at least half of those seeking transplants abroad are under 50 years old. The total could possibly be higher, the ministry spokesman said, since only those seeking follow-up treatment at public hospitals are counted.
In 2008, there were 1,255 patients living with kidney transplants — of which 29 per cent were done overseas.
Doctors here do not make a distinction between patients who had their transplant done overseas or locally, saying their job is patient welfare, not the legality of the transplant.
‘We would like to assume that it was done legally, even if it was overseas,’ said one doctor.
Latest figures available show that 4,378 kidney patients were on dialysis as at the end of 2009. That year, 1,264 were added - the number has been rising 3 to 5 per cent a year, mostly because of uncontrolled diabetes.
The number of transplants using organs from dead donors appears to have shrunk — from 46 in 2007 and 2008 to 36 a year for the past two years. As at December 2011, 436 patients were waiting for a kidney from a dead donor.
Last year, 31 received a kidney from a living donor, up from 25 in 2010.