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2024 Corneal Summit in Ghana

HCP team and partners celebrate the conclusion of a successful summit.

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HCP Cureblindness Leads Support for Proposed Organ Donation Legislation

news | Ghana | Mar 26, 2024

HCP Cureblindness joined partners to raise awareness to the need for a comprehensive organ and tissue donation law in Ghana.

For patients like Doreen Amartey, 55, a cornea transplant was the only option to restore her sight. She was one of the lucky ones. HCP Cureblindness performed a handful of cornea transplants at an outreach in 2023 with donated tissue brought by US surgeons on their flight to Accra.

“With no laws legalizing organ donation, a majority of Ghanaians who are corneal blind will never see again,” said Dr. James Addy, HCP Country Director (Ghana). Unlike Doreen, the other 26,000 Ghanaians waiting for a transplant won’t be as fortunate.

Doreen, a corneal transplant patient
Doreen Amartey, 55, poses for a photo after a successful cornea transplant at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Ghana.

Hoping to change this, major stakeholders including NGOs, legislators, health professionals, surgeons, and tribal leaders recently gathered for the second annual Corneal Transplant Summit in Ghana. HCP Cureblindness co-hosted the event with the Ophthalmic Society of Ghana and in partnership with Ghana Health Services (GHS). Attendees showed collective support by signing a joint petition to be shared with members of Parliament.

The event outlined proposed legislation that will regulate all activities involving human organs and tissues for transplantation, examination, treatment, information, and research. The bill will establish a Human Organ and Tissue Authority to oversee and manage organ and tissue donation. It will create a national registry of donors and recipients, protecting their rights and interests, and ensuring ethical and legal standards are followed.

Signing of the petition to legalize tissue and organ donation

“At present, the corneal surgeons in the country are dependent on sourcing tissues from abroad which is both costly and time-consuming. Also, cornea donation is supposed to take place within six hours of a donor’s death. Therefore, appropriate mechanisms for retrieval of the tissue need to happen in the correct frame of time,” said Dr. Seth Lartey, a corneal surgeon at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital. In total, Ghana’s corneal surgeons have had tissue to perform only a dozen transplants since 2022.

Dr. Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Presidential Advisor on Health, also called for the bill’s support, “A corneal transplant is not just a medical procedure; it is a gift of sight. By passing this law, we affirm our commitment to compassion, progress and the well-being of every Ghanian.”

“The Ghanaian government recognizes that blindness is not merely a personal problem: it is also a socio-economic one. Visually impaired people are less likely to work, get married, have children, or generally engage in the world around them. Communities are less likely to thrive,” explained Dr. Ashiyana Nariani, HCP Senior Technical Advisor, Ophthalmic Training and Research.

At present, the corneal surgeons in the country are dependent on sourcing tissues from abroad which is both costly and time-consuming. Dr. Seth Lartey, a corneal surgeon at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital

The bill is scheduled to be introduced by the Minister of Health to Parliament in the coming weeks. HCP Cureblindness worked in partnership with the Ophthalmological Society of Ghana and Ghana Health Services for the summit, calling for the bill’s immediate passage. No current laws exist in Ghana for cornea or other organ donations.

Dr. Ashiyana Nariani speaking at corneal summit
HCP Senior Technical Advisor Dr. Ashiyana Nariani speaks to those in attendance at the 2nd annual Corneal Transplant Summit.

HCP Cureblindness has been an active partner in Ghana’s ophthalmic community since 2006, working to strengthen systems of eyecare by providing support for high volume cataract surgical interventions, as well as training, equipment and infrastructure for over 14 eye units across the country.

HCP’s support and lobbying efforts on behalf of this bill will shape the future for corneal blindness moving forward for generations of Ghanaians and their communities.

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