More living kidney donations needed

Kidney donor Dimitri Linde's article ("Lofty sentiments are fine, but they won't save lives"; last Friday) highlighting efforts to address the shortage of kidney donors in the United States echoes similar concerns the world over, including in Singapore.

This is a pressing issue given the rise in our nation's kidney failure cases, with four people losing the use of their kidneys every day.

Since the early 1970s, Singapore has been promoting kidney transplantation. The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) strongly supports this cause as it provides kidney failure patients with a much better clinical outcome than other treatment options such as dialysis.

There is still some way to go. In 2012, there were 457 people on the waiting list for a kidney transplant but only 23 cadaveric and 28 live donor kidney transplants were carried out. Many patients have waited beyond the average waiting time of nine years.

Progress has been made in developing the deceased donation programme under the Human Organ Transplant Act (Hota) of 1987. However, deceased donations alone will not have a significant impact on the long waiting list for an organ. For this, we need more living donations by family members and relatives of patients.

In 2004, one of the amendments to Hota included regulating living donor organ transplantation beyond cadaveric donation.

With further amendments to Hota, the NKF launched the Kidney Live Donor Support Programme in 2009, where financial assistance is provided to a needy live donor who, through his act of compassion, gives someone a new lease of life. In this way, the patient can receive the gift of life and have the assurance that costs will not be a barrier for the donor's long-term medical follow-up.

The decision to donate an organ is not an easy one to make but it is definitely a kind and gracious act. We hope more people will come forward to help their loved ones suffering from kidney failure.

While the NKF continues to serve our country's poor and marginalised kidney failure patients and encourage kidney donation, there is some good news - the main causes of kidney failure, such as diabetes and hypertension, are preventable.

In this regard, the NKF will be doing more upstream to raise awareness of kidney disease and prevention in the community.

We will work in tandem with health-care and other partners to inspire many more Singaporeans to take charge of their health through simple efforts like having a healthy diet of less sugar and less salt, and a more active lifestyle, with a good dose of exercise and regular health checks to keep diseases at bay.

Edmund Kwok

Chief Executive Officer

National Kidney Foundation

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