Organ transplantation needs our support

We, as a society, need to change the taboos towards organ transplantation after death


By Samia Shah

Organ transplantations save lives of thousands of patients throughout the world every year.  Mostly closed family members donate their kidney to their loved ones to save their lives but many health experts believe that is not sufficient because the demand for kidney or body organ transplantation is growing with every passing year. Several organizations working on health in Pakistan claim that 200,000 people in the country die on account of organ failure. Experts believe that deceased organ donation can give them a new lease of life

We, as a society, need to change the taboos towards organ transplantation after death. It is said and believed by many that the body is sacred trust of God and shall return to him and any change in deceased body will permanently close the door of blessing for the donor. But it could be argued that if a human body belongs to God and has to return to him then no change whatsoever should be made to body. Then one should not get an operation to remove any diseased part of his body and should die of the disease? The martyrs of Islamic wars like Hazrat Amir Hamza made tremendous sacrifices. The enemies of Islam mutilated his body. One could argue that his body would not be blessed because it was mutilated. So, this is an excuse to avoid donating body organs. People misinterpret religion for this purpose but Islam does not stop anyone from saving others’ lives by donating body organs. Islam is for saving lives. It offers a progressive vision of life.

We need to think about the consequences. The lack of support for organ transplantation has led to the sale of body organs which is quite common in countries like Pakistan, India, Philippines, Egypt and China.  Every  year thousands  of  people  from  Europe,  Middle  East,  the United  States,  and  Australia  come to these countries in  search  of  poor  donors  who  are  willing  to  give  one  of  their  kidneys  for  financial  compensation. According  to  the WHO,  up  to  10 percent of  the  63,000  kidney  transplants  that  occur  annually  throughout  the  world  involve  donors  from  developing  countries  who  are  unrelated  to  the  recipients.  A  common  feature  of  this  commercial  organ  trade  is  that  the  donor  usually  does  not  receive  any  post-operative  care  which  can  lead  to  grave  consequences.  Another  dark aspect  of  this  inhuman  and  unethical  business  is  that  the  donor  receives  only  a  small  fraction  of  the  amount  which  the  recipient  pays.

In Pakistan there are organized gangs that lured innocent people into donating kidneys. Most of the victims are from the bottom layers of social stratification. According to some estimates, a large number of the people, who sell out their kidneys because of abject poverty, are from brick kiln workers’ families. Most of the brick kiln workers have to sell their kidneys to get rid of vicious circle of debt. They borrow money from brick kiln owners that becomes unbearable for them. The ruthless working conditions force workers to switch work place but before they could do it, they must repay the loan that they had taken from the owner. To repay this loan, they sell their kidneys in the hope that it would not only help them get rid of debt but bring prosperity to their families. But post operation complications compound their miseries, adding more financial burden. In some cases it is not only men of working class families who have sold their kidneys but their women and young boys as well.

Our law makers and institutions need to do some legislation for the entire country to stop the commercial organ transplant effectively. If they are not able to do so, they need to legalize it to stop the exploitation of poor donors.

The situation in Pakistan is alarming. It is one of the favorite resorts worldwide as far as “transplant tourism” is concerned.  According  to  WHO  estimates,  Pakistan  hosts  up  to  1500  transplant  tourists  every  year,  second  only  to  China. Donating organs in live endangers the health of donor and it is not sufficient to fulfill the needs.

The deceased organ donation is an important human issue in our society which needs support from all segments of society. Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) has been conducting volunteer programs as well as deceased donor program by courierer and online to save the lives of thousands. The hospital is charitable with no charges. During an awareness walk at Quaid’s mausoleum in August this year DrAdibulHasanRizvi of Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) said the concept of organ donation after death was encouraged across the world to save precious lives. It should also be encouraged in our country so that the obnoxious business of organ sale could be eliminated.

DrRizvi, a prominent transplant surgeon who played a vital role in introducing transplant surgery in the country, said: “More lives can be saved if people become members of organ donation initiative and share the message to their near and dear ones.” He said one could save and improve the lives of eight or more persons as an organ donor. DrRizvi said an estimated 100,000 liver transplants were required every year and “this can only be achieved through deceased organ donation, where the patients dying in the ICU on ventilators can donate kidneys and liver after family’s consent. “Living donor of liver transplant can fulfil the need of only a small portion of liver patients.”

The SIUT has been doing a tremendous job for decades. It has carried out over 5,700 procedures since the programme was initiated in 1985, including three after death transplant out of six, in the history of the country. Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) also organized a function in August this year to launch a docudrama on deceased organ donation based on the real life story of Mr. Naveed Anwar, who met a road accident in 1998 and became Pakistan’s first deceased organ donor. The man behind the institute-Dr. Rizvi-believes that it is the collective responsibility of the society to publicize and bring awareness about deceased organ donation.