Health Ministry: ‘Opt out’ system not an option


PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has yet to change to the “opt out” system – whereby everyone is deemed an organ donor unless they say no – because the public is just not ready, says the Health Ministry.

At present, the nation practises the “opt in” system, which requires informed consent before a person’s organs can be donated.

“Even though the opt out system can lead to an increase in organ donation, we have yet to change due to the level of public readiness.

“However, continuous discussions are still being done to improve the system towards increasing organ donations in our country,” ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah told The Star.

Despite a small rise in organ donor pledges, there has not been any marked increase in actual organ donations after death.

“One reason is refusal by family members,” Dr Noor Hisham said.

He said the rate of family refusal was 57%, of which Malays were more likely to do so, based on a 2017 study titled “Factors influencing families’ refusal for deceased organ and tissue donation in Malaysia”.

“The social stigma regarding organ donation, coupled with religious and cultural beliefs, is still prevalent,” he added.

As at June 30, a total of 21,230 people are on the organ wait list, with most (21,212) waiting for kidneys.

It was reported that only 1.3% of Malaysians (419,946 people) have pledged to donate their organs after death.

Dr Noor Hisham acknowledged that kidney transplants were more cost-effective in the long run compared to dialysis.

“With the aim of assisting patients while waiting for transplants, the Government has allocated a substantial budget for the provision of dialysis for the patients,” he said.

He added that aside from cada­veric kidney transplants, living related renal transplants can be conducted under the ministry.

On Malaysians going overseas for commercial transplants, he said the ministry did not encourage citizens to undergo such procedures as it is against the law in many countries.

“Malaysia is a signatory to the Declaration Of Istanbul in 2008, which is against organ trafficking and transplant tourism,” he said.

The proposed Organ and Tissue Transplantation Bill, which aims to ban organ trading, has been reviewed by the Attorney General’s Chambers.

“Now it is being reviewed by the Malaysian Productivity Council to assess its socioeconomic impact on Malaysia,” Dr Noor Hisham said.

The Bill aims to preserve ethical and professional practices in human organs and tissues transplantation, among others.

For more information on how to sign up as an organ donor, log on to www.dermaorgan.gov.my

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