Obstacles before organ donation

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Al-Watan

THE year 1905 was an unforgettable year in human history. The first successful corneal transplant operation was carried out that year. The dream of making new achievements in the field continued and the first kidney transplant was successfully conducted 50 years later.

The World Health Organization (WHO), meanwhile, set out the General Principles of Human Organ Transplantation in 1991, which brought about revolutionary changes in transplantation surgeries in the following decades. Since then WHO has been supervising these operations in more than 91 countries.

Many people may not know that a single individual can donate more than six organs, including the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and intestines, as well as tissues that form bones, cornea and heart valve to help save several lives suffering from chronic diseases. Donated organs should be removed from dead or brain dead people and transplanted within 24 hours.

People can also donate their organs such as bone marrow, liver and kidney while alive to save lives.

According to a report issued by the Saudi Center for Organ Transplantation, which is one of the most important and successful organ transplant centers in the Arab world, 332 brain deaths occurred at the Kingdom’s hospitals in 2015. The center has been applying advanced medical standards for transfer of organs from the brain-dead to patients on the waiting list for transplantation.

The report indicated that relatives of 70 percent of the brain-dead people refused to donate organs. The approval rate has dropped to almost zero in some areas. The Kingdom’s central province received the largest number of consents for organ donation but this did not exceed 44 percent.

This statistics is really shocking. Although the Council of Senior Islamic Scholars in the Kingdom has encouraged organ donations by issuing a religious ruling or fatwa, such donations have not reached the desired levels.

Many patients in the Kingdom are forced to travel abroad for organ transplant operations because of a lack of donors. Many countries including Pakistan, Philippines, China and some Arab countries were previously known to have involved in organ trade. Hospitals in those countries bought kidneys from the poor people for their patients after ensuring compatibility. As a result of strict regulations, such transplants are now carried out secretly and in unhealthy environments, thus negatively affecting patients. Because of the secret nature and unhygienic environment in which these transplant operations were carried out many patients have died due to complications during surgery while many others have lost their vital organs damaged.

The question is why it is relatively easy to find a living donor while it is so hard to get the consent of the heirs of a brain-dead person to donate organs. In the first case, the donor is the decision maker while in the second sentiments, indecision and incorrect information prevail over the decision-maker's psyche. In order to overcome this situation, which obstructs transplant surgeries, we have to follow the approach of developed countries.

I like to cite the Spanish model because Spain is considered a world leader in organ transplantation for the quarter of a century.

We have to formulate a national program to be carried out by the Ministry of Health with the support of the ministries of Interior, Education and Information to enhance public awareness on the importance of donating organs to save patients suffering from chronic illnesses. The awareness campaign can be carried out using social media platforms.

The Spanish law assumes that a dead person will accept the donation of his or her organs if they did not specify otherwise when they were alive. And some countries (Canada, for example) confirm the consent of an individual to donate organs while issuing national identification documents such as the driving license.

We have to train an adequate number of people to communicate with relatives the brain-dead individuals in this regard. The National Authority for Organ Transplantation in Spain has trained more than 18,000 social workers for this purpose.

Finally we need to support the private sector to expand organ transplant programs in order to serve a larger number of patients who require organs to lead a normal, healthy life.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has been extending all-out support for the organ transplant program since its inception. His humanitarian gesture has contributed to saving lives of people suffering from chronic organ failure and protecting patients who seek organ donors outside the Kingdom and who are likely to fall in the hands of greedy rackets.


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