30 Aug 2013 | by Zofeen Ebrahim | ì | Health - Original Feature
Since the transplantation law was passed in 2010, only two cadaveric donations have taken place in Pakistan. Despite the need of more than 50.000 people, who die of organ failure each year, Pakistanis seem unwilling to donate even after their death.
IPSTV correspondent Zofeen Ebrahim reports from Karachi.
Since the transplantation law was passed in 2010, only two cadaveric donations have taken place in Pakistan. The population seems unwilling to part with their organs even after their death. In fact desecrating of human body is forbidden by the Islam. Many believe it is tantamount to desecrating the body, which is not permissible in Islam. Harvesting of organs from the deceased is now protected by law.
Thirty-six-year old Sabiha Saleh, has been coming to the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation since 1995. She says she knows well why people are not willing to bequeath their bodies when they die: “They don’t even donate blood, what to talk of kidneys! People are just so scared!”. But, as Dr. Farhat Moazan, chair of the Center of Biomedical Ethics and Culture, explains, not everyone seems to agree: “I’ve heard that Pakistanis are just not ready, or are ignorant and therefore do not want to donate kidneys after they die. I think that is a bum rap. I think no concerted effort has been made on our part to really get to them, to have them understand what this is, so they feel they own the program. And unless we do that, it’s not going to happen”.
Twenty-seven year old Shamim Meera Jan suffers from renal failure. She’s not aware of the transplantation law, that allows deceased organ donation. Yet, she wants to give away her organs after her death. But she is not sure if her family will honor her wish: “There are many young and educated people who pledge their organs, but their families do not honor their wishes because they don’t believe it is right”.
There are just not enough live donors to meet the need of the 50,000 people who die of organ failure each year in Pakistan. While we have a deceased donor program it remains on paper only. To activate this, we need to bring awareness in society as well as train practitioners. “We had been involved in organ sale for almost 20 years – says Dr. Adibul Hasan Rizvi – it had become a sort of a culture here. In addition, there was a powerful group which benefited from this malpractice. They also had the money and developed contacts with higher ups by obliging them in illegal transplantations and in turn delayed the passage of the bill.”Precious time was lost that could’ve been spent in actually educating the public.
Organ transplantation will not just give a new lease of life to the hundreds suffering from renal failure, Dr Adib says, it will open a new era in the science of transplantation in this country: “Once we have cadaveric donation accepted by the community, the result will be embarking on heart transplantation, lung transplantation, liver transplantation, pancreatic transplantation, small and large bowel transplantation… almost every organ will be transplanted”.
Even if Pakistanis begin to accept the deceased donor program, success will depend on building the infrastructure.