(eTN) – A kidney patient who travelled to the Philippines to search for a live donor has defended his decision to become a so-called “transplant tourist”.
Father-of-two Mark Schofield, 44, from Porthcawl, was followed by BBC Wales’ Week in Week Out team on his journey.
The ex-European surfing champion said a shortage of UK organ donors forced him to try to buy a new kidney abroad.
But despite travelling to Asia, he was told the donor organ he had hoped to use was not compatible.
The British Medical Association (BMA) said one person a day in Britain died while waiting for a transplant.
The BMA has been campaigning for better ways to encourage more organ donors, and is supporting a switch to “presumed consent”.
That would mean everyone over the age of 16 would be taken to be a donor, unless they opted out.
Mr Schofield took the decision to travel to the Philippines after spending four-and-a-half years on the UK waiting list.
He feared that without a new kidney he would not live long enough to see his children George, 16, and Jessica, 13, grow up.
He knew he would be arrested if he tried to buy a kidney in the UK, but said he also expected criticism from some who believed it was morally wrong to buy and sell human organs.
“If I could buy one in this country I would buy one in this country. We’ve decided it’s wrong – so I’ve got to go somewhere else,” he said.
“You stick to your moral argument, but I’m not prepared to sit down, lie down and play dead.”
There are currently 6,500 patients waiting for kidney transplants in Britain, with about 400 in Wales.
Mr Schofield, who is looking for a second transplant, found a surgeon in Manila who was confident he could locate the right donor.
A transplant in the Philippines costs about £40,000, whether the operation is successful or not. But Mr Schofield and his wife Jayne said they believed it was a price worth paying.
However, the couple’s journey ended in disappointment after Mr Schofield was told by doctors the donor organ was not compatible.
He was forced to return to a life on dialysis in the UK.
But he insisted: “I am going to get it. One day, even if I’m 75-years-old, I will have a transplant. I will live without dialysis at some point before I die. I will promise you that.”
The couple’s journey was co-ordinated through a Philippines government-backed scheme which promises long-term economic support and medical care for donors.
It is aimed at stamping out a black market in human organs.
The Week In Week Out team travelled to Baseco, a place known locally as “No Kidney Island” because so many adults there have sold their kidneys in a bid to escape poverty.
The programme discovered some had undergone the surgery for as little as £1,000, and an organ broker admitted lying to hospital officials about the donors she recruited.
Last month, the Welsh Health Minister Edwina Hart announced a consultation document on the issue of presumed organ consent in Wales.