EDITORIAL: Law seeking to formalize donation of body organs long overdue
Thursday November 03 2022
Parliament has been busy in the past one month, with a number of very important Bills being tabled for debate.
One of the Bills that recently preoccupied members of the august house, was the proposed Bill that seeks to allow Rwandans to donate vital organs upon their death.
The Bill, which was presented by Minister for Health Dr Danirl Ngamije, caused excitements across the public health spectrum, and rightly so.
It is not actually a new Bill, what was presented are ammendments to a law which was passed a decade ago, which captains of the health sector deemed necessary to be updated.
The law regulating therapeutic, educational, and scientific utilisation of organs and products of the human body was gazetted in 2010 and revised in 2018.
What the news around the organ donation Bill clearly indicated is that many people are largely unaware of their laws.
For more than a decade, Rwandans have been able to donate their organs, and very few knew this, but that’s beside the point.
What was even more important to note this time around is how willing people are to donate their organs upon death. People volunteered to go for multiple tests and scans to establish the state of their organs, so they can sign a commitment, indicating their willingness to donate their organs.
The multiple who were interviewed also expressed willingness to donate their organs, which even speaks deeply of how far Rwanda as a society has gone in terms of healing from our tragic past.
In Rwanda, just like other African cultures, body parts especially of a dead person, are a sensitive subject, largely because of how superstitious we are as Africans. In many cultures burying a loved one or dear friend even far supersedes visiting them when they are sick in terms of value.
And burying a person without all their body parts, or when one is missing is considered sacrilegious, which many fear can even attract curses. But many Rwandans seem to have transcended these superstition-induced value systems, to give their hearts, kidneys, liver, corneas and other tissues to those who will need them.
The purpose of the law is to establish legislation for transplant surgery services, organ donation and teaching programs for academic purposes, but it would not amount to much without a willing population.
Some of the reforms in the law are also practical and necessary, for instance the one in place provided that only Rwandans of 21 years of age and above can donate organs.
Yet the universal age of consent for organ donation is 18 years of age, which they new Bill comes to rectify.