Until the news of an alleged kidney harvest broke out, Noah Kekere, was one obscure ‘doctor’ plying his trade in Jos, the Plateau state capital. However, Kekere is now in the news for an entirely wrong reason.
Operating a clinic that had the name Murna Clinic and Maternity in Jos metropolis, he reportedly harvested the kidney of one Mrs Kehinde Kamal, in 2018, when she visited his hospital for an operation that had nothing to do with kidney.
It took Mrs Kamal almost five years and an eventual visit to Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) after frequent visits to Kekere’s Murna Clinic, to realise that her organ had been harvested.
While we hope that the law will take its course as Kekere is being held by the police, the fact that an incalculable damage had been done to Mrs Kamal cannot be overemphasised.
Essentially, we are dealing with the criminal harvesting of a patient’s organ which ran contrary to every known ethics of whatever profession Kekere, the alleged harvester, plies.
However, Mrs Kamal’s situation has opened a pandora’s box of some sort with widespread concerns that in the over 18 years of operating Murna Clinic, Kekere may have harvested as many organs as possible unknown to most of the victims.
The Nigerian National Health Act provides, in line with the 2008 Istanbul declaration, that organ donation and harvesting should be done in a regulated way.
Specifically, the Istanbul declaration stipulates clearly that organ donation is voluntary and that as much as possible, there should not be any inducement to get an organ from a prospective donor.
Indeed, all medical practitioners are guided by the National Health Act as far as organ donation is concerned. The act specifically provides for consent as a precondition for taking someone’s organ.
In the case of donation, the Act stipulates that the donor must be 21 years of age and be counselled on the 0.05 per cent risk of having some morbidity or mortality.
The Jos incident is not only a breach of trust but clearly a criminal act that questions not just the integrity of the suspect-Kekere-but also the sort of training he received that qualified him to even ply the trade of treating patients.
We are in no way surprised that the Jos chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), has since disowned Kekere. In a statement, the NMA said Kekere is a quack masquerading as a medical doctor.
How a quack operated a clinic where he carried out operations on numerous citizens for 18 years, in a city like Jos, without the NMA knowing, clearly is one of the wonders of the millennium.
In the considered opinion of this newspaper, the NMA in Jos cannot outrightly absolve itself of blame. Clearly, in distancing itself from Kekere, the Jos NMA is unknowingly, indicting itself.
Perhaps to understand why Mrs Kamal had her organ harvested, it is imperative to state that the organ harvesting industry is a $1.7 billion industry with reports suggesting that the current global need for organs is far greater than the supply.
Although it is estimated that no fewer than 150,000 transplants are performed every year globally, the figure is said to be less than 10 per cent of the global demand.
While Kekere remains innocent until proven guilty, it is interesting to note that the Nigerian law has provision for offences related to organ harvesting as captured under the Trafficking in Persons Prohibition, Enforcement and Administration Act.
Section 20 (1) provides that any person who through force, deception, threat, debt bondage or any form of coercion, abuses a position of power or situation of dominance or authority arising from a given circumstance or abuses a vulnerable situation or through the giving or receiving of payments or benefits in order to induce or obtain the consent of a person directly or through another person who has control over him enlists, transport delivers, accommodates or takes in another person for the purpose of removing the person’s organs, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than seven years and a fine of not less than N5,000,000.00.
“Section 20 (2) of the law also states that, without prejudice to the provisions of subsection (1), a person who procures or offers a person, assists or is involved in any way in the removal of human organs or buying and selling of human organs, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than seven years and to a fine of not less than N 5,000,000.
As a newspaper, we believe that the penalty is not harsh enough to deter organ harvesters. But then, we are of the opinion that when done without the patient’s consent and knowledge as is the case with Mrs Kamal, the penalty should carry life imprisonment.