Over 500 waiting for organ transplant

SINGAPORE - The Human Organ Transplant Act (Hota), introduced in 1987 allows the removal of kidneys, livers, hearts and corneas from Singapore citizens and permanent residents who have died, for the sole purpose of transplantation.

It also provides an opt-out organ donation system.

In 2004, Hota extended its coverage to allow more people to benefit from organ transplants.

Despite these changes, the number of organs donated for transplants in Singapore remains dismally low.

Over 500 people are waiting in line for an organ transplant as of March last year. And this queue is ever growing.

Of these, 448 are on the National Kidney Transplant waitlist while on dialysis. Another 28 are in the queue for new livers.

Six are there for hearts and 22 for corneas.

This persistent shortage of organs means the wait for a kidney from a dead donor, for example, stretches an average of nine years.

The rate of live donations remains low even though Hota was amended in November 2009 to allow living donors to be reimbursed for expenses.

These include the cost of health checks, laboratory tests, surgery, hospitalisation and follow-ups, as well as loss of income as a result of the donation.

And desperation has driven some patients to go overseas - especially those who are able to afford between $50,000 and $100,000 to do so.

About 30 kidney patients head overseas every year for organ transplants despite the risk of infection and the fact that organ trading is illegal.

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