SAYING NO TO COMMERCIALIZING LIVER TRANSPLANTS IN MALAYSIA! (Part 1)

Dr Jacob George is president and legal adviser to the Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam (Cassa)

Before anything else – I want to thank Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak for granting me ‘my humble request’ made in my earlier blog regarding the Director General of Health Services, Malaysia!

I am indeed very happy!

On liver transplants:

I have no complains at all at the manner liver transplants are being managed at government hospitals but I am concerned at recent public spins and other articles by mercenary journalists hired by private healthcare centers and their stupid communication executives to canvass stories and manipulate the debate on this issue with slanted views!

It is time that all liver transplant programmes in the country (private & public) be monitored and reviewed by a government appointed select committee chaired by the DG of Health Services to ensure professionalism and accountability! – Dr Jacob George


SAYING NO TO COMMERCIALIZING LIVER TRANSPLANTS IN MALAYSIA! (Part 1)

At a government hospital in Malaysia I am advised that the cost for a liver transplant is just RM500.00 (thanks to the sponsorship and corporate responsibility)

But strangely, the same operation elsewhere costs over RM350, 000.00 – dead or alive!

Apart from the issue of the over-all costs, other issues that are also been debated is who really decides on whether such an invasive procedure is the best solution for that patient!

Or that the organ made available is best suited for another patient having a greater chance of survival!

I raise this morning these questions because I am really disturbed at the way this is being tackled in the country!

I have no complains at all at the manner liver transplants are being managed at government hospitals but I am concerned at recent public spins and other articles by ‘mercenary journalists hired by private healthcare centers and their stupid communication executives’ to canvass/spin/advertize stories and manipulate the debate on this issue with slanted views!

The issue of liver centers or transplants is nothing new; we have them in Thailand, Hong Kong, Australia and Singapore!

There are also such controversial centers in China, India, Sri Lanka, in the underground in Egypt and several other countries in South America!

I am a strict advocate for a strict code of ethics surrounding the whole question of liver transplants – which today is being brushed aside by some who are commercializing the trade which to me is a disgrace to the medical profession!

They are a disgrace because they have commercialized this call and what matters to them are the financial returns rather than what is best for the patient!

I have heard from affected consumers of many stories and among them two that I will recollect here!

The first where it was clear that an invasive surgery was unnecessary as it will bring forth no positive result but despite that the surgery was done and the patient died!

The patient’s family still paid!

In the second incident, the surgery was completed the patient developed major complications and was then referred to a government hospital where an attempt was made to rectify and crisis manage the case!

The patient also died!

In the same breath, I know of a dear friend and member of the Malaysian Bar who represented me at the industrial court after I was ‘brutally retrenched’ at 44 years of age   destroying my corporate career!

Yes – and I am not Jesus of Nazareth – ‘all that forgiving’ -  so may those behind ‘that retrenchment of one person’ that destroyed my career all be cursed with painful horrendous deaths because their act caused so much pain and destruction in my life for the last 11 years!

But, coming back to this solicitor friend – he conducted my case especially the examination in chief in pain, medical discomfort, knowing fully well he had only weeks to live!

I knew he took my case personally because he really cared for me – saying that I reminded him of himself during his younger days when he was a unionist and fought for the rights of others and was penalized dearly!

As I sat with him at a government hospital he spoke of opportunities that presented themselves to him from others to ‘lengthen his lifespan’ by going for a liver transplant to China!

Yes, in that there was a huge financial costs but he could afford it but there was others issues that he reflected upon prior to making up his mind!

He told me of the professional and medical advice he received from government doctors after which he decided against going to China!

Instead as advised – he spent quality time with his loved ones with whatever time he had left!

My dear friend/solicitor was very pleased at the advice given!

Weeks later he died!
It is time that all liver transplant programmes in the country (private & public) be monitored and reviewed by a government appointed select committee chaired by the DG of Health Services!

This is to ensure professionalism and accountability!

I will also certainly take this matter up with the no nonsense Director General of Health Service, Dr Ismail Merican urging him to set up a high powered team to review any third party attempts to set up ‘liver centers’ or for that matter any organ transplant unit unless the many issues like costs, decision making process, selection, ethics, governance, medical legal issues, audits on mortalities are clearly addressed!

These centers must also be monitored by our Ministry of Health experts!

It is time we addressed the profiteering, the moral and ethical issues that surround the whole question of organ transplant and in this case – liver transplant in Malaysia!

Every effort must be made to deny a base in Malaysia where these forms of exploitation could be a way of life!

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