Friday 25th Jul 2014
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Transplant Tourism: Boon or Bane?

Organ Transplant

At their second Global Consultation on Transplantation the World Health Organisation (WHO) came up with some guiding principles on cell, tissue and organ donation and transplantation. Transplantation is increasingly seen as the best solution to end-stage organ failure. End-stage kidney disease, for instance, can only be repaired with a kidney transplant. Without it, the patient will die or require dialysis for years, which is an expensive procedure and often out of reach of poorer patients. Transplantation is the only option for some liver conditions, such as severe cirrhosis or liver cancer, and a number of serious heart conditions.

 

According to WHO, the demand for human organ transplants far exceeds supply, fuelling the growing trend of “transplant tourism” from wealthy countries to developing nations where organs can be bought. Reports on 'transplant tourism' show that it makes up an estimated 10% of global transplantation practices. As many as 66,000 kidneys were transplanted in 2005 catering to a mere 10% of the estimated need. In the same year, 21,000 livers and 6,000 hearts were transplanted.

Recent estimates communicated to WHO by 98 countries show that the most sought after organ is the kidney. Since a person can live with only one kidney, people in poor countries are lured into selling one of them to a person in need. The poor donors are offered hefty sums for a kidney, but in the end they receive only about half because middlemen take the rest. In Western countries package deals are advertised on the internet for as low as $12,000 or $ 20,000 to receive a kidney and seven days of hospitalisation in the transplant country. However live donations are not without risk, whether the organ is paid for or not and the donor must receive proper medical follow-up which is often lacking when he or she is seen as a means to profit-making. WHO recommends using organs from deceased persons as it eliminates the problem of donor safety and can help reduce organ trafficking.

The Supreme Council of 'Ulama in Riyadh (in their resolution no. 99 dated 6 Dhul Qi'dah 1402) has allowed both organ donation and organ transplantation in the case of necessity. The Fiqh Academy of the Muslim World League, Makkah also allowed organ donation and transplantation in its 8th session held between 28 Rabi'ul Thani- 7 Jumadal Ula, 1405.

It is important to note that most of the jurists have only allowed donation of organs. They do not allow the sale of human organs. Their position is that the sale of human organs violates the rules of the dignity and honour of the human being, and so it would be haram in that case. Some jurists suggest that because people have become too materialistic and it may not be possible to find a free organ, under necessity one can purchase the organs, but a Muslim should never sell his/her organs.

However Muslim scholars have stipulated certain conditions for someone to donate his/her organ.

1. He/she must be a person who is in full possession of his/her faculties so that he/she is able to make a sound decision by himself/herself;

2. He/she must be an adult and, preferably, at least 21 years old;

3. It should be done on his/her own free will without any external pressure exerted on him/ her;

4. The organ he/she is donating must not be a vital organ on which his/her survival or sound health is dependent upon;

5. No transplantation of sexual organs is allowed.

Similarly there are some conditions associated with deceased donors

1. The transplant must be done after having ascertained the free consent of the donor prior to his /her death. It can be through a will to that effect, or signing the donor card, etc.

2. In a case where organ donation consent was not given prior to a donor's death, the consent may be granted by the deceased's closest relatives who are in a position to make such decisions on his/her behalf.

3. It must be an organ or tissue that is medically determined to be able to save the life or maintain the quality of life of another human being.

4. The organ must be removed only from the deceased person after the death has been ascertained through reliable medical procedures.

5. Organs can also be harvested from the victims of traffic accidents if their identities are unknown, but it must be done only following the valid decree of a judge.

Organ transplant is a double edged sword. Boon if you use it, bane if misused.



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