Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 29 October 2020

Emirati family launches appeal for 5,000 organ donors

Thirteen members of the same family registered in the UAE’s donor programme - and now want others to do the same

Dr Saif Darwish and his extended family are launching a campaign to support the UAE's organ donor programme. Back row, from left: Badria Al Harmi, Saif Darwish, Mohieddin Al Bastaki and Saad Al Bastaki. Front row, from left: Aisha Al Harmi, Ghalia Al Harmi, Hamda Darwish, Ward Al Bastaki, Nehal Al Bastaki, Reem Al Bastaki and Azza Al Ghafri. Reem Mohammed / The National
Dr Saif Darwish and his extended family are launching a campaign to support the UAE's organ donor programme. Back row, from left: Badria Al Harmi, Saif Darwish, Mohieddin Al Bastaki and Saad Al Bastaki. Front row, from left: Aisha Al Harmi, Ghalia Al Harmi, Hamda Darwish, Ward Al Bastaki, Nehal Al Bastaki, Reem Al Bastaki and Azza Al Ghafri. Reem Mohammed / The National

An Emirati family has launched a campaign to encourage people to sign up as organ donors.

Thirteen members of the same family registered in the UAE’s donor programme last week through the Ministry of Health and Prevention's Hayat application.

They want to correct misconceptions about the practice and show not only is it in line with Islam, but also the right thing to do.

It comes as organ donation becomes much more widespread in the UAE following a landmark decision in 2016 regulating the area.

“Our culture and traditions teach us to be kind, caring and generous so it is part of our duties ‎towards our country and towards humankind to come forward and sign up as organ donors,” said Dr Saif Darwish, one of the family members.

Organ donation is consistent with the beliefs of most major religions including Islam

Dr Saif Darwish

“Not all of us were familiar with the concept as it raised many questions related to religion, age and health conditions, so we decided to launch a campaign to spread awareness about organ donation,” he said. "Some people think that if they agree to donate their organs, the hospital medical team will not work hard to save their lives which is totally wrong."

Another misconception is that people think organ donation is against Islam.

"Organ donation is consistent with the beliefs of most major religions including Islam," he said.

Organ transplants have been common around the world for decades. The first major transplant, of a kidney, was performed in Boston in 1954. This type of transplant is the most common globally, followed by liver and then heart.

The UAE in 2016 issued a law to regulate the practice. A few months later in 2017, the law took effect and by 2018 the laws permitting organ donation saved the lives of scores of people. Doctors said recent changes to legislation had allowed lifesaving transplants to save patients who previously would have died.

Under the national transplant law, live organs can only be transplanted from a near relative.

Dr Darwish and his wife Dr Badreha Al Harami, launched the awareness campaign after registering as donors.

“We aim to attract 5,000 donors to register in the programme during this month and we have already started sharing posts on our social media accounts under the hashtag #donate_hope,” he said

Dr Darwish said that there are about 11,000 patients in the country in need of organ transplantation.

Dr Saif Darwish. 'It is part of our duties ‎towards our country and towards humankind to come forward and sign up as organ donors,' he said. Reem Mohammed / The National
Dr Saif Darwish. 'It is part of our duties ‎towards our country and towards humankind to come forward and sign up as organ donors,' he said. Reem Mohammed / The National

“The number includes 3,700 patients with kidney failure, 1,300 liver patients, and more than 6,000 patients needing a pancreas transplant, in addition to heart patients,” he said.

Organs that can be donated include the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs and pancreas and a single donor can save up to eight lives.

His wife said that the campaign will focus on explaining the registrations process, correct any misconceptions and spread awareness.

“We were excited to see that many members of the family have expressed their willingness to donate their organs after death,” said Dr Al Harami.

In order to become a donor, you should be a UAE resident and over 21 years. Younger suitable donors will need family members’ consent in case of death.

“My elder daughter Ghalya who is now, 13, is also excited and decided to sign up as an organ donor when she turns 21,” said Dr Al Harami, an Emirati mother-of-three.

Aya Al Bastaki, who was introduced to the programme by her cousin and is one of the 13, said she also encouraged her parents to register.

“It is a selfless act that can save many lives,” said Ms Al Bastaki, a 25-year-old Emirati who works at a governmental entity in Abu Dhabi.

Her father said that it is an opportunity to give back to the community. “It is an act of humanitarian solidarity and if there is a 1 per cent chance of saving another person’s life, then I am happy to take it,” said Mohiddin Al Bastaki, a 51-year-old Emirati father-of-five living in Dubai

“There is a lot of misconception about organ donation, mostly related to religion, but hearing the correct information from Muslim scholars and medical experts will help in taking the right decision,” he said.

Hospitals in the UAE licensed to conduct organ transplant operations include Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi; Sheikh Khalifa Medical City; Mediclinic Dubai; Al Jalila Children's Specialty Hospital; Dubai Hospital; and Al Qassimi Hospital, Sharjah. Last year, doctors at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City said they had carried out 60 kidney transplant operations in 18 months with more than half, 35, from living donors.

Updated: October 6, 2020 07:32 PM

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