Statistics from the Global Observatory on Donation and Transplantation of organs and tissues reveal that in 2017 Kuwait recorded the largest number of organ transplants among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states with seven donors per million population. Saudi Arabia with five donors was in second spot among GCC states. Iran topped the Middle East region with 12 donors per million population, followed by Turkey with eight donors, and Kuwait came in third spot in the region. For comparison, the number is 50 per million in Europe.
One reason for the low numbers in the Middle East is the existing social and religious opposition to the maiming of deceased persons. Islam stresses the sanctity of the body of the dead and the prohibits dimembering the body or cutting the bones of the deceased. There are no such cultural, religious or social barrier in Europe, where donating organs is socially acceptable and in fact encouraged.
Elaborating and clarifying on the subject of organ or tissue donation and transplant in Kuwait, Dr. Mustafa Al-Musawi, who heads the Kuwait Society for Organ Transplantation said, “The transplantation of organs, such as heart, kidney and liver, is the last resort used by hospitals to save the life of patients suffering from organ failure.
“In such cases, the hospital seeks organ donors who could be living persons or those deceased recently. Living donors could include immediate relatives, such as the patient’s wife, brothers or sons, while non-relative donors could be anyone willing to donate their organ, in order to save the life of another human being.
“But when it comes to donations by non-relatives, there have been controversies in the past, admitted Dr. Al-Musawi. “We have seen cases where a patient or his relatives bring a non-relative donor, such as their driver or maid, saying that they are willing to donate out of love for the patient or to receive blessings from God.
“However, we are very careful of such donations. Any complacency in this regard could lead to a spurt in an organ-trade market in Kuwait, which is both unethical and illegal in Kuwait. To avoid this situation, there is an impartial organ donation ethics committee that does not include the surgeons involved in the transplant. All cases of donations from non-relatives are referred to the committee, so that they are subjected to the necessary investigations and examinations. The committee then comes up with a report that either approves or rejects the donation.
“Donation of organs after death is the preferred option for transplantation, because the deceased can donate several organs to save several patients. The best type of donation is from the body of those who are pronounced clinically dead, as their organs are generally alive and healthy.
“As Muslim surgeons, we assure donors that the organs will be taken through a delicate and sensitive surgery, such as the removal of organs of the living person, and ensure that they are free of any marks. We do not break a bone or cut a limb, but will extract the internal organs with minimal harm. Many religious scholars have also authorized the donation of organs after death, either through the deceased’s will or following consent from the parents,” said Dr. Al-Musawi in conclusion.