Rules and Regulations Must Take into Consideration Cultural Dynamics of Society

The Deputy Director of the Medical and Dental Council, Dr. Divine Ndonbi Banyubala has called on policy makers to pay attention to cultural dynamics of society before they come up with rules and regulations.

This was contained in a presentation made on his behalf by Dr. Justice Bawole of the University of Ghana Business School at the opening of the 2nd Faculty of Arts Colloquium with the theme “The Humanities and Indigenous Knowledge In Health”.

In her welcome address, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Prof. Dora F. Edu-Buandoh said the colloquium was the faculty’s way of collaborating with medical practice to find answers to some critical questions in that area.

Opening the colloquium, Vice-Chancellor, Prof. D. D. Kuupole noted that there was the need to integrate traditional and orthodox medicine since “we do not have to act as if we do not have any indigenous knowledge of our own medicine”. “We are running to them every day, it means they are there and therefore the linkage is already there’.

Prof. Kuupole advocated for the theme to be further developed with those in Sociology, Information Technology and Medicine to help government formulate policies that would impact society.

Dr. Banyubala who was the keynote speaker for the colloquium indicated for example that human organ and tissue transplantation was one biotechnological advancement that has for over half a century presented a number of ethical, legal, social, cultural, clinical and economic challenges.

For this reason, Dr. Banyubala said, countries starting or developing transplantation programmes needed adequate legal and professional frameworks to govern human organ donation and transplantation together with effective and transparent regulatory oversight systems.

In the case of Ghana, Dr. Banyubala said the first test transplant involving living related donors in Korle Bu Teaching Hospital has been conducted in the absence of any specific legislation on organ donation and transplantation activities. “Mr. Chairman, our immediate challenge, however, is whether or not in the Ghanaian socio-legal context we could successfully ground our policy choices both on the pursuit of our basic goal of maximizing organs for transplant and respecting the cultural rights of the people as guaranteed under the 1992 constitution”.

Dr. Banyubala called for the avoidance of policy choices that may appear theoretically alluring but which nonetheless have a high likelihood of offending sensibilities and therefore more likely than not to create deep-seated public resentment. He said the strong protection accorded the traditional Ghanaian family coupled with the entrenched nature of cultural rights in the 1992 constitution to mean that a regulatory system purporting to govern the retention and use of (deceased) human biomaterials must take the wishes of the deceased and their families into account.

He submitted that respecting the interest of the dead by safeguarding their reputation at custom as ancestors is a cultural right that a transplant policy that hopes to have social legitimacy in the Ghanaian traditional setting must address. He noted that whether or not we happen to believe in sainthood or ancestorship, indigenous knowledge when sensitively and open-mindedly explored might illuminate key health sector policies such as organ and tissue donation for transplantation and science research.