Kenya: Bill Proposes 10 Years in Prison for Blood Thieves

(file photo).
20 October 2020

Anyone who engages in illegal trade of blood faces up to 10 years in jail, Sh20m fine or both, if the proposed Kenya National Blood Transfusion Bill 2020 becomes law.

The Bill by Murang'a County Woman Rep Sabina Chege seeks to give Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service (KNBTS) the much required autonomy to regulate blood donations, testing, processing, safeguarding, transfusion and quality control.

It will also be mandatory that for such services to be provided to a donor or recipient, there must be written consent unless the donor or recipient is unable to give informed consent.

In this case, a person who gives such consent must be mandated by the donor in writing to grant the consent on their behalf or through a court order.

"Any person who knowingly receives an illicit transplant shall not be spared as they are now liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding Sh20 million or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or both," the Bill states.

Illegal blood trade

To check against the illegal blood trade, KNBTS will also be required to establish an organ donation registry.

The registry will enable the KNBTS to create and maintain a national list of those who need organs, to match organs and individuals on the list.

The lack of a legal framework governing blood transfusions has compromised the safety, quality and availability of blood, lending loopholes to all manner of illegal activities.

"A person shall not buy, sell or deal directly or indirectly in blood transfusion, any organ or tissue for a transplant, body parts for therapeutic purposes, medical education or scientific research unless otherwise provided by the regulations under this Act," states the Bill currently before the National Assembly.

The Bill comes as statistics at the KNBTS show the country collects about 150,000 to 200,000 units of blood from Kenyans a year but a huge portion of it is sold to criminal networks in the region.

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations is investigating the involvement of Kenyan medical professionals in cases where donated blood is smuggled to Somalia and other countries in Africa, where its market value is believed to be the highest.

Kenya, which requires between 500,000 to one million units of blood a year, continues to face blood shortages.

Illegal dealings

To curtail the illegal dealings and ensure that the country's blood bank is sufficiently replenished, the Bill is proposing a fine of Sh20 million and cancellation of the licence of an institution that contravenes the law.

A report of the House committee on Health that considered the Bill, says that the proposed law is an endorsement of the World Health Organization (WHO) principles on human cell, tissue and organ transplant.

"The WHO in its World Health Assembly in 2017 identified the need to interrogate the coordination of blood, blood products, other tissues and gametes to facilitate the comprehensive implementation of the Health Act of 2017 and align it with the WHO guiding principles,"says the report of the committee.

While considering the Bill, the committee chaired by Ms Chege received submissions from among others, the Ministry of Health and the Association of Kenya Medical Laboratory Scientific Officers.

The committee also noted that the government's minimal financial support to KNBTS and dwindling donor funding has put the six regional blood transfusion centres and their satellites in a dire state. The centres, says the Health Committee, are dilapidated and lack enough personnel and operational support.

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