Egyptians are still hesitant about organ donation
CAIRO – Egyptian writer Khaled Montaser used his October 1 signing session to call on intellectuals, artists and influential people to help raise awareness of organ donation. He urged them to register as organ donors to encourage citizens to follow suit.
Montaser also called for adding donor status to driver’s licenses.
A number of artists and writers responded. Actress Elham Shaheen announced at the event that she was ready to donate her organs after her death.
The messages reignited the debate on Egyptian Law No. 5 of 2010 on organ transplantation. Section 8 of the law allows transplantation of an organ of the body from a deceased person to a living person if the deceased person has consented in a documented will.
Article 10 calls for the creation of a register of patients requiring a transplant which will be organized by need.
The head of the Egyptian parliament’s health affairs committee, Ashraf Hatem, said in an Oct. 3 telephone interview on Sada Al-Balad that the law regulating organ donation will soon be implemented. “Work will be done with the government to introduce the necessary changes,” he said. “Some articles of the law need to be clarified in parliament so as not to confuse the implementation, including articles concerning the transfer of organs from a deceased person.
Mohammad Hilal, a member of the Senior Committee for Human Organ Transplantation – an organization affiliated with the Ministry of Health that coordinates donor and transplant centers – told Al-Monitor: “So far the committee has failed. has approved no organ transplants from a deceased person to a living person. This operation requires a written document from the donor himself before the death in which he acknowledges his willingness to donate his organs.
Hilal praised Montaser’s efforts to promote organ donation, but argued that the process requires strict enforcement of the organ transplant law to prevent violations such as organ trafficking. “It also requires the creation of organ banks and a database for donors and patients to facilitate the pairing of the organ with the recipient.”
He also called on religious authorities to issue religious decisions on organ donation by terminally ill patients. He explained that some organs can only be transplanted when the body is still technically alive and blood is still circulating.
Dayf el-Naggar, who heads the government office that deals with estates from deceased Egyptians, told Al-Monitor that currently the only way to prove that a person is an organ donor after death is through a will, a sensitive document that can take days to read.
Dr Mohammed Hassan Khalil, retired cardiologist and founder of the Cairo-based organization, the Committee for the Defense of the People’s Right to Health, told Al-Monitor: A deceased person to a living being person in Egypt concerns the definition of death.
He explained, “In the past, death was universally defined as the time when the heart stops beating. But in some cases, the heart can come back to life after a flat line. This led to another definition, which is brain death. When brain function is lost, the patient irreversibly loses the capacity for consciousness and breathing, and the body is kept alive. At this point, doctors can perform heart transfers and transplants. “
Dar al-Ifta, Egypt’s highest Islamic authority, has authorized organ transplants from deceased people under specific conditions to ensure that the process leaves no room for trafficking in human organs.
These conditions include confirmed death of the donor and not clinical death (brain death). There must be a will signed by the deceased and the process cannot involve any financial compensation. Reproductive organs cannot be donated.
Khalil said, “There is a conflict between the new and the old definition of death. Some believe that a heart transplant in clinical death is tantamount to murder. But when the case was submitted to parliament in 2014, it was agreed to leave it to the discretion of specialist doctors to confirm the death. This amendment opened the door to organ transplants from deceased persons. However, the law has not yet been enforced and organ donation is still limited to the living relatives of the patient. “
Khalil explained that there are several organs suitable for transplantation from a deceased person, including the cornea, pancreas, liver, kidneys and skin.
“The length of time these organs are viable after death varies from organ to organ,” he said. “This is why we need to put in place a system whereby donors carry cards proving that they are potential donors so that doctors can quickly remove organs in the event of death. This will save us the long process of [opening and reading] wills.
Despite the authorization of parliament and Dar al-Ifta for organ donation after death, Egyptian positions on this issue have varied considerably on social media. While some have praised organ donation for saving lives, others still reject it, saying organ donation goes too far in damaging the human body. They argue that bodies are a gift from God and that human beings are not their absolute owners. Others have warned that promoting post-mortem organ donation could open the door to trafficking in human organs.
Khalil attributes the Egyptians’ reluctance to donate their organs after their death to religious misconception. “Regulated organ donation eradicates organ trafficking since organs will be made available through a legal system, which will facilitate access to the necessary organs,” he said.