YESTERDAY marked the beginning of the Health Ministry’s National Organ Donation Awareness Week, which is aimed at increasing the number of organ donors; the campaign ends next Saturday.
During the week, 83 localities nationwide will be conducting street campaigns to raise awareness about organ donation among the public.
The importance of organ donation has also been recognised by the Prime Minister himself. In his Facebook page yesterday, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak says he has signed up as an organ donor.
“Pledging to be an organ donor can help save lives. In conjunction with the National Organ Donation Awareness Week, I hope more will join in. I have pledged, anda bila lagi? (when will you?)” he wrote.
Getting people to pledge their organs is about the mindset, says Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
“The biggest challenge when it comes to organ donations is changing people’s mindset to become more receptive to pledging their organs to save lives.”
Having more of these campaigns might help to get more pledges, says Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, National Organ Donation Public Awareness Action Committee chairman.
“Currently, only 1% of our 30 million Malaysian population have signed up as organ donors,” he says.
Lee recalls he had once proposed that Malaysia implement the opt-out policy for organ donations as practised in countries like Singapore.
Under this policy, citizens are deemed to have consented to be organ donors unless they clearly state their wish to opt out.
However, this proposal was turned down by the Health Ministry because Malaysians are not prepared for it, Lee says.
While he agrees that the people may not be ready, Malaysia should reconsider this policy in the next five years, he says.
Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Ashok Philip also concurs that Malaysians are not ready yet for the opt-out policy.
“It is a good policy but we need an educated society first. The answer is to increase awareness about organ donation,” he says.
“There are some who want to donate their organs but are prevented by their family members.”
Dr Ashok suggests that the Government comes up with clear guidelines on how genuine and legal living donors could donate to patients without too much red tape.
“Also, there should also be improvements in transplantations to prevent organs from dying before even being given to the recipient,” he adds.