Black Market for the Blind Swells in Egypt
Doctors in Egypt say that a big black market has emerged in corneas for transplant as a result of a serious shortage, according to a BBC report on Saturday.
As many as a quarter-of-a-million people are waiting for operations that would save their sight.
Egypt used to have plenty of corneas to transplant - doctors would routinely remove them from dead patients during post mortems. Under Egyptian law, this is allowed without the relatives consent.
Corneas can also be taken from the corpses of patients who have no known relatives.
The problem began four years ago, when an Egyptian journalist discovered his uncle's corneas had been removed during an autopsy, the report added.
A media campaign followed, in which doctors were accused of being cornea thieves.
Lawsuits were filed which, though never won, could take years to resolve.
STEALING FROM THE DEAD
As a result, doctors in government hospitals are now refusing to remove corneas at all.
Doctor Samir Sabry, head of one of Egypt's two eye banks, told BBC the position taken by the oculists has led to people staying blind.
"People who can afford it are unfortunately subjected to a black market," she said.
Although corneas can be imported from abroad, this is costly, and doctors say another cheaper method has been found to obtain them.
Workers in the country's morgues are stealing eyes to sell to private hospitals, where a healthy cornea now costs about $3,000 - way beyond the reach of most Egyptians.
Eye specialists are now calling for a government campaign to encourage cornea donation, which Egypt's religious authorities have now approved – Albawaba.com
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