Dr Nsia-Asare calls for legislation on cornea transplant

Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare
Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare

Dr Anthony Nsia-Asare, the Presidential Advisor on Health, has called on legislators to expedite the legislation for corneal and other organ transplantation in the country.

He also appealed to the public to commit to being tissue/organ donors to help cure the over 90 per cent of patients suffering from cornea blindness in the country and bring an end to the disease.

The legislation would permit the harvest of vital organs and in this case cornea to save patients.
Dr Nsia-Asare made the call at the first ever inaugural cornea transplant summit in Ghana and said as a matter of urgency the existing document needed to be reviewed to reflect current practices.

The event organised by the Ophthalmological Society of Ghana with support from HCP Cure Blindness, a United States non-governmental agency, was on the theme: “Paving the Way to Cure Cornea Blindness in Ghana.”

He said the Ghana Blindness and Visual Impairment study of 2015 indicates that 11.2 per cent of the blind population in Ghana were blind as a result of Corneal scars translating into about 25,000 Ghanaians with blindness.

“Blindness, unfortunately, has a workforce and socio-economic impact that affects the individual, relations and the Society,” he said.

The Presidential Advisor said the importance of corneal transplantation legislation and the promotion of eye and organ donation was therefore crucial to achieving total socio-economic transformation of the unfortunate patients and the nation for “health is wealth.”

He said Ghana had a well-trained human resource base and facilities to start a structured corneal transplantation programme in some hospitals in the country.

“Providing the legal framework to human organ/tissue donation makes the framework stronger for eye and organ donation to operate.

This is the missing critical component of the puzzle that is needed and should be timely, as many go blind every day because we do not have the requisite legislation in place to guide human organ/tissue donation, counselling, storage, and distribution for necessary transplants to take place,” he stated.

Dr Nsia-Asare said it was important for the public to be educated by the Ophthalmological Society of Ghana on donation, consent process, screening of tissues and equitable distribution.

We hope it will assist in establishing and maintaining public confidence in organs, eyes, and tissues donations/transplantations in Ghana.

He also charged the Ophthalmological Society of Ghana and the Ghana Kidney Association to come together and join hands with the Assisted reproductive Technology Group, which is also working to get a legal framework to back their operation.
The document, when operational, would contain proposals for the regulation of organs/tissue donations and transplantations, for anatomical examinations and research.

Dr Seth Lartey, Tissue and Organ Transplant Consultant at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), said the legislation had become necessary given the increase in cornea transplant cases in the country.

He said the country was in dire need of the legislation to establish an Eye Bank just as the Blood Bank to effectively conduct visual impairment surgeries when necessary.

Dr Lartey said cornea blindness could be prevented through cornea transplant, but this was only possible if the enabling legislation was operational and called for stakeholder collaboration to make it work.

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