Doing more for organ donation

JOHOR BARU: To make it easier for people to pledge their organs and encourage more to come forward, the National Transplant Resource Centre (NTRC) will provide a facility for donors to register directly via its website by the end of this year.

Presently, those interested in pledging to donate their organs can visit the nearest hospital to register by filling in an application form. The donor will then receive a pledge card.

Sultanah Aminah Hospital transplant procurement manager Dr Omar Sulaiman said 900 people in Johor had pledged in the first four months of this year to donate their organs. There were 4,599 pledges in the state last year.

“Three donors in the state have donated their organs this year to transplant patients,” he disclosed.

He finds that awareness on the need for organ donors is relatively high among the Malaysian public, but believes there remains a discrepancy between the level of awareness and people’s willingness to become donors.

He said this could be due to the people believing various myths surrounding organ donation.

“Among them is that organs can be bought and sold or that organs are obtained from the body in an unclean manner,” he said.

He pointed out that the sale of human organs in Malaysia was prohibited.

As for the surgery, he said the organ harvesting and transplant procedures required a sterile condition and precision like any other operation.

Currently there are more than 10,000 people nationwide on the kidney transplant waiting list and some have been waiting for up to five years to find a suitable donor.

According to the NTRC website, besides kidneys, there are also seven patients awaiting hearts and 12 patients nationwide need lung transplant.

Dr Omar stressed that a pledge of donation did not mean the donor’s organs were automatically harvested after they died.

He explained that Malaysia practised informed consent, which meant that the donor’s immediate family needed to give their consent for the organs to be harvested.

“We are respectful of the body, even after death, and we also respect the wishes of the donor’s family,” he said

He added that in the event the organ was rejected by the recipient, the organ would either be returned to the family or donated for research purpose.

Based on data from the NTRC website, as of April 2010, there are only 140,633 pledged organ donors out of 26 million Malaysians.

In the first three months of this year, there were 3,077 new pledges nationwide.

To-date, only 284 have successfully donated their organs to others in need.

Dr Omar said the organs in highest demand were kidneys, hearts, lungs and livers.

“Some of those in need of transplant include babies.

“These children usually need liver transplant due to congenital liver diseases and if they do not receive a transplant on time, they lose their chance at life before they even live it,” he said.

He also said that while there exist many replacement therapies such as kidney dialysis, artificial hearts and respirators to aid breathing, these therapies were costly and only served as a temporary measure.

To become an organ donor or to find out more about how you can pledge to be a donor, visit the National Transplant Registry website at or visit your nearest hospital to pick up an application form to receive your organ donor pledge card immediately.

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