Promising start

  • Nepali doctors have pushed the frontiers of medical treatment in the country

Dec 14, 2016-

On December 9, Nepali doctors achieved a breakthrough of sorts, as they performed the first liver transplant in the country. Senior South Korean doctors including Professor Dr Jae-won Joh and Professor Dr Choon Hyuck David Kwon assisted the Nepali doctors in the surgery, which is considered one of the riskiest to perform. A 41-year-old man Balram Naga successfully underwent the 10-hour-long procedure at the Human Organ Transplant Centre in Bhaktapur. His sister Sanu Maya Lageju, 39, had donated the organ. 

During the transplantation, doctors cut off around a third of the donor’s liver and put it in the body of the recipient. Rejection of the organ by recipient’s body is one of the major risks of the surgery.

Health Minister Gagan Thapa, who has been championing reforms and qualitative 

improvement in Nepal’s health care system since coming to office in August, eulogised the surgery as a great achievement. He made a promise to support any innovative idea that would directly benefit the public.

While there are some who hesitate to hail the procedure as a major milestone, the fact is that the successful surgery not only made liver transplantation available in Nepal, it also offered the treatment at a very low cost compared to other countries in the region.

Patients can now avail themselves of the service in the country for around Rs1.5 million. The same procedure costs more than Rs10 million in India and other countries.

According to estimates by health officials, there are around 800,000 people with liver ailments in Nepal. As many as 10,000 patients might be suffering from chronic liver disease; doctors recommend transplantation for all such patients. Excessive consumption of alcohol is a major cause of chronic liver disease. Not detecting Hepatitis B and C early also leads to liver failure. As such, although the availability of the liver transplantation service in Nepal is an important accomplishment, the government and the civil society will also need to focus on prevention and behavioural change through awareness campaigns.

The successful liver transplantation comes on the heels of the endorsement of the Human Organ Transplantation Regulations, 2016, which opened the door to liver transplantation in the country. The previous regulation had limited transplantation procedures to kidney. 

While the endorsement of the new regulation was important, the real heroes in this development are the Nepali doctors who performed the surgery. We salute their dedication to improving the health care system in Nepal even at a time when the system is in the grip of medical mafias and when people like Dr Govinda KC have 

to resort to repeated hunger strikes to get meaningful reforms underway. It will take many more dedicated doctors like KC to improve the country’s health care system. 

Published: 14-12-2016 08:24

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