Pak-India collaboration can make health care affordable, say Indian doctors

Pak-India collaboration can make health care affordable, say Indian doctors

By Sidrah Roghay

Karachi: There was a time when liver transplant patients would have to go to the US, UK, Singapore or China for treatment. But then Subhash Gupta, a surgeon from Delhi, came into the picture and patients from Pakistan began to be treated in India.

The Indian option was appealing in many ways.” It involved lower costs and zero cultural barriers. The patients could understand very well what the doctors explained,” says Gupta, dressed in a black suit, as he laughs heartily and his face turns red. “Also, we could coordinate better for post-surgery care,” he adds.

Gupta, along with Manav Wadhawan, a physician, was in town on Saturday to present a paper at the 28th Annual Congress of the Pakistan Society of Gastroenterology & G.I. Endoscopy. Last month in Lahore, his team performed two voluntary live liver transplant surgeries for free, as a gesture to “break the ice” and to encourage cross- border collaboration. The surgery costs around one million rupees otherwise.

Liver transplant is a complex surgery, which can take up to 18 hours, where a piece of liver is transplanted into the patient. But living transplants are even more complex “as not one but two lives are at stake”, Gupta says.

The distinguished surgeon claims from experience in India that living donor transplant, and not cadaveric transplant, “is the way forward for Pakistan”. He adds that “a living donor who is a family member will never refuse a transplant given our socio-cultural make-up. Sometimes when you ask donors if they are willing to part with a piece of their liver, they say, ‘puray ka pura lay lain (take the whole thing)’,” he laughs.

The same is not the case with cadaveric donations. “In India and Pakistan, families do not always approve of tearing up a dead body for donation. There is a lot of hesitation, and nothing can be done without the family’s consent.”

Dr Manav Wadhawan believes that the two countries can benefit greatly from mutual consultation. “It’s because we can understand our problems better. Hepatitis C is the most common cause of liver disease in India and Pakistan. When we consult western medical practitioners, they do not understand what our patients go through every day.”

And he believes that mutual consultation can extend to pharmaceutical expertise. “The way forward to peace is a strong economy, and this can only be done through people-to-people contact.”

Wadhawan says the people of the two countries laugh and exchange common jokes with each other which can only be understood by someone raised in the subcontinent. “Who has the bigger bomb will not help our problems. It is what we can give to the common man, and for that an active civil society is the need of the hour,” says Gupta. This, he maintains, is the reason he supports Aman ki Asha, the peace initiative jointly undertaken by the Jang Group of Pakistan and the Times of India.

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