Organ donation can save lives

A national system for organ donation and transplant will strengthen our health system

The introduction of a law allowing transplants from deceased patients is a critical and long-awaited step that will save many lives. As The National reported yesterday, last year's law led to the establishment of a programme of organ transplants, which will begin next month in five hospitals after staff have been trained and equipped to perform the transplants.

Before the introduction of the law, hospitals were dependent on a patient’s relatives to donate, and in many families there simply wasn’t a suitable donor, which meant that many patients needed to travel for treatment. But now, as part of the programme, hospitals will ask the families of patients who die in intensive care if their relative would donate organs after death. The new law could also mean that people could register as donors.

Having a system in place will encourage more members of the public to become donors. For those who are concerned about the religious aspect, it’s important to explain that the Islamic consensus is that organ donation is religiously permissible if it doesn’t pose a risk to the donor’s life and if it’s done to save the other person’s life, and not for economic gain.

Having a national transplant system is critical to address the prevalence of kidney failure and treat other diseases. Instead of sending patients outside for treatment, our hospitals should have the capacity to carry out some, if not all, of these operations. Such a system has played a key role in saving many lives in other parts of the world. While in some countries organs and tissues can be taken if the deceased has joined an official organ-donor register or informed their relatives before their death, other countries have set up an automatic organ donation system allowing organs and tissues to be transplanted after someone dies unless they have opted out of the system. In the UAE, we would prefer an explicit wish, on an organ-donor card, before organs are donated. That way those who do not wish to take part do not have to. But hopefully the possibility of so many lives being saved by a small gesture will mean many people take up the opportunity of the card.