Philippine Health Chief Orders Eradication of Kidney Black Market Associated PressMarch 26, 2008 9:55 a.m. MANILA, Philippines -- A new order aimed at eradicating a thriving black market in kidney sales by desperately poor Filipinos would restrict foreigners traveling to the Philippines in search of donors, the health secretary said Wednesday. Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the order, which he signed Monday, called for the creation of a government board to oversee kidney donations and transplants, ensure proper care of donors and make more transparent and ethical a disturbing practice that has flourished in secrecy. Kidney trading in the Philippines, involving poor people and prisoners who sell their organs for paltry sums to syndicates catering mostly to foreign clients, has been reported by the local media and reflects the depth of the Southeast Asian nation's poverty. A TV network once featured a Manila slum in which dozens of men sported abdominal scars after giving up their kidneys. The order seeks to provide a more benevolent image to kidney donations by prohibiting the payment of money as a precondition. It says donations must be done "out of selflessness and philanthropy" to save and ensure the quality of life of the beneficiary. "We want to remove this black market," Mr. Duque said. "We want to protect our already poor countrymen from abuse." Health Undersecretary Alexander Padilla said the order, which took more than two years to craft, was sought specifically because of numerous reports of foreign patients traveling to the Philippines in search of kidney donors. "We don't want to be known as the kidney capital of the world," Mr. Padilla said. A 1991 law only regulated transplants of kidneys and other organs from brain-dead donors. One contentious issue was whether to ban foreigners from securing kidneys from local donors -- a move backed by private advocacy groups to prevent the exploitation of the poor in Third World countries, Mr. Padilla said. Authorities eventually decided against such a ban but made it difficult under the new order for foreign patients to obtain kidneys, he said. The order prioritizes Filipino patients in the allocation of donated kidneys and prohibits their export to any other country. About 10,000 to 12,500 Filipinos develop serious renal diseases each year and about half could be saved by kidney transplants, according to the health department. Only about a tenth of those who could have transplants actually do so because kidneys are in short supply and the procedures cost so much. There are no existing statistics on the number of foreigners seeking local kidney donors.