By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The Armenian parliament voted Wednesday to approve in the first reading a law regulating transplants of human organs -- a largely underdeveloped area of medicine in the country.
The government-sponsored legislation stipulates that only the relatives of patients whose life is at risk can give away their vital organs for transplant surgeries. The prospective donor’s decision must be approved by a special commission of competent doctors.
The law explicitly bans the sale and purchase of donor organs. Health Minister Ararat Mkrtchian pointed to this provision as he sought to allay some deputies’ fears that impoverished citizens could be tempted to sell their organs for a lump sum.
Under the law, individuals aged under 18, disabled persons, pregnant women and prisoners can not be organ donors under any circumstances. It also provides that no human transplant can be carried out in Armenia without the mutual consent of both the recipient and the donor.
“Our experience with transplanting organs is minimal,” Mkrtchian told the lawmakers. “One of the reasons for that is the absence of such legislation.”
Most transplant operations in Armenia have so far been performed on kidneys, skin and eyes. Mkrtchian denied reports that a leading Yerevan clinic is preparing to carry out the first heart surgery in the country’s history. But he said the law will spur the development of transplant medicine.
It may undergo some changes before being passed in the second, final reading by the National Assembly. The deputies, in particular, will have to iron out their differences over a provision that places few restrictions on the use of a dead person’s organs.