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Manila bans organs for foreigners

6th May 2008

In a bid to stem a recent surge in the illegal human organ trade, authorities in the Philippines have banned organ transplants for foreigners, who visit the country in their hundreds every year in search of a low-priced kidney.

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Government figures show that around half of all transplants performed in the Philippines in 2007 involved foreign recipients.

The sale of human organs is banned under Philippines law, which also limits transplants to foreign recipients to no more than 10% of the total.

But a growing black market in human organs sold by some of the country's poorest shanty-town dwellers has prompted the government in Manila to take action.

Television reports have shown footage of impoverished villages and shanty-towns in Manila where nearly all the men had visible surgery scars from selling a kidney, reportedly for around £2,350.

Philippine Catholic bishops urged the government on Monday to impose stricter regulations on organ transplants, while the Philippines has been identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as among countries promoting "transplant tourism".

Foreign blood relations of Philippine citizens are exempt from the change in the law, which Health Minister Francisco Duque has called a 'moral imperative'.

The government had a duty to protect Filipinos, especially the poorest in society, from the black market sale of internal organs, Duque said.

Dubious middlemen working for crime syndicates comb the slums of the capital in search of people willing to sell a kidney for several thousand dollars.

The health risks of such transactions are high, with many kidneys removed in backstreet clinics under unhygienic conditions.

Local media have reported police raids on such clinics, and also the deaths of some donors shortly after surgery from complications.

As other countries traditionally associated with this problem - like Pakistan, China and Colombia - gradually begin to eradicate the illegal business, business, health officials say, has shifted to the Philippines.

Authorities are planning to step up raids against illegal transplant operations in the next couple of weeks warning that those performing the operation, including recipients - will be harshly dealt with.


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