The UK news has the story of a young Nigerian woman, Rose Akhalu, who is being targeted for deportation by the authorities because she has overstayed her student visa. The problem is that this woman has a functioning kidney transplant and deporting her to Nigeria might deny her access to immunosuppressive drugs. With dialysis such a scarce resource in Nigeria, sending her back and risking the viability of her kidney makes little sense. Without dialysis she would die. But, her chances of getting a dialysis slot apparently are slim.
The story raises serious ethical issues: “Rose's case raises several ethical questions. Is Britain responsible for the long term healthcare of foreign nationals and those on short stay visas? And if Rose is allowed to stay could this encourage so called 'health tourism' - immigrants and visitors who come to the UK expecting the NHS to pick up the bill for their healthcare.
The patient’s nephrologist has also weighed in: “Rose's kidney specialist Dr James Tattersall believes that sending her back would mean the "the kidney would not last very long". He says for Rose it would mean certain death.
That position is supported by the UK's National Kidney Federation. They have described Rose's situation as "cruel and unjust" and "a stressful position no transplant patient should find themselves in", adding "a journey leading to a mortal end is a frightening position for anyone to face, let alone one that could be easily averted."
Dr Tattersall also says if Rose's kidney is wasted, he believes the entire system of organ donation in the UK is endangered, because of a breakdown in trust. He says: "When a family gives permission for us to use an organ, they have to trust that we will use that kidney in the best possible way.”
The bottom-line is that it would be terrible for Rose Akhalu to be deported. Of course this should not be allowed to open the flood gates to abuse of a country’s largess. But there is a big difference between opening the flood gates and letting one or two people stay on compassionate grounds. What we really need is a global fund to support people like Rose Akhalu. The burden ought to be shared by all countries.