By Ian Kiptoo & Rose Mbugua

Recent developments have sent shock waves through Kenya’s medical landscape, with the Kenya Renal Association (KRA), Kenya Association of Urological Surgeons (KAUS), and Kenya Association of Physicians (KAP) jointly calling for a thorough investigation into the operations by Mediheal Hospital, based in Eldoret, over allegations that the hospital is involved in illicit organ trade.

In a statement released by the associations, disturbing indications of a rising trend in the commercialization of organ transplants and medical tourism at the facility are provided. Such practices not only raise serious ethical concerns but also undermine trust in voluntary donation, leading to a decrease in willing donors and an increase in the costs associated with organ transplants.

“Unethical practices undermine the trust in voluntary donation, leading to a decrease in willing donors and increasing the costs associated with organ transplants. It fosters a harmful black market for organs, with potential risks including human trafficking and violence,” the statement emphasized.

The associations have urged the government to take immediate and decisive action by suspending the licenses of all medical personnel involved and initiating disciplinary proceedings against them. They emphasized the urgency of eliminating these unethical practices to safeguard the integrity of kidney transplantation in Kenya and ensure the safety and well-being of all patients and donors involved.

These allegations violate international resolutions, including those set forth by the World Health Organization and Kenya’s Health Act 01 of 2017, which expressly prohibits organ trade. The associations have called upon The Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to expedite legal actions against individuals implicated in these illegal transplant activities.

It is not the first time Mediheal Hospital has come under scrutiny for alleged involvement in illegal organ transplants. In 2019, human rights activist Francis Awino petitioned the High Court to compel the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to investigate the hospital over accusations of illegal kidney harvesting. Awino claimed that during a specific period, a patient had one of his kidneys removed against his will and without proper consent.

Furthermore, in 2021, the hospital faced accusations of organ trafficking after blogger Robert Alai linked it to an international organ smuggling syndicate. Despite repeated denials from the hospital, these allegations have resurfaced, casting a shadow over its reputation again.

The gravity of these allegations cannot be overstated, especially considering the critical need for organ transplants in Kenya. With thousands of Kenyans requiring organ transplants and many dying on the waiting list, the demand far outweighs the available supply. 

Additionally, the risks associated with organ transplanting, including rejection, infection, and the transmission of diseases, highlight the importance of maintaining ethical standards in the procurement and transplantation process.

As investigations unfold and legal actions are pursued, the outcome will determine the fate of those implicated and have far-reaching implications for the future of organ transplantation in Kenya. Transparency, accountability, and ethical practices must prevail to restore trust and uphold the sanctity of human life in the pursuit of medical treatment.