Transplants between unrelated people uncommon
Whether a donor is related to the recipient or not, the pair have to go through an interview with an ethics committee before the kidney transplant is allowed to proceed.
But for unrelated cases, the rejection rates are higher, said Dr Akira Wu, a renal physician who practises at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre.
Unless the pair can show there is a close emotional bond between them, he added.
Dr Wu said: "The crux is emotional relationship. You have to prove that the donor is really close to the recipient. It is not enough to do it for religious purposes."
He said that in the last few years, fewer cases of approval were given to kidney transplants between unrelated cases.
He said: "It is very difficult to verify the closeness of the emotional relationship between two persons.
"If they (the committee) cannot do it, they cannot approve the transplant and this is to maintain the high ethical standards here."
Consultant nephrologist Dr Gordon Ku, 73, who is Neyphug Trulku Rinpoche's doctor, said that he had to present his patient's case during the interview.
Dr Ku, who also practises at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre and has been in practice for 44 years, said: "The committee wants to be certain that the transplant is for an altruistic donation and is not for commercial purposes."
Before even meeting the ethics committee, a donor has to undergo a series of tests to determine whether he or she is suitable to donate a kidney.
While blood group compatibility is optional these days, the donor has to be fit and the kidney condition must be perfect, said Dr Wu.
Once all the required tests are done, the meeting with the ethics committee will be arranged.
There will also be a cooling-off period of a week, added Dr Wu.
Once approval is given, the kidney transplant can take place as soon as within a month.
Dr Wu said that the transplant has to be done within 60 days of the approval, otherwise, another approval is needed.