I SUPPORT the latest statement made by the Health Ministry on the issue of organ and blood donation, which should not touch on the donors’ racial and religious background “Ministry: Clinical criteria determine recipients of organs” (The Star, Feb 13).
The statement is timely as it could help answer the questions raised by several quarters on the status of organ and blood donation from non-Muslim donors to Muslim recipients and vice-versa, which has created confusion among the public.
It is wrong to exploit racial and religious issues when discussing organ and blood donation since it involves the lives of those who desperately need them.
Members of the public who are confused with the issue should refer to those with expertise in the relevant fields, including religious scholars.
As explained by Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, organs harvested from donors were distributed purely on clinical criteria and not based on race, religion, background or a person’s status in society.
Among others, it will depend on criteria such as waiting times and the compatibility between donors and recipients.
The same approach is also being used for blood donations and transfusion, where the background of the donors and recipients are not the determining factor
Therefore, there are possibilities that the organs donated by a Muslim would be given to a non-Muslim recipient and vice-versa.
As organ and blood donors, we should make the pledge wholeheartedly and sincerely for the sake of those in need.
I would like to advise those who plan to pledge their organs to discuss their intention with family members to avoid confusion in future.
Those who are below 18 years of age must get a written consent from their parents or guardian before they can register themselves as an organ donor.
As for the Muslims, they should abide by the edicts issued by the National Fatwa Council in the 1970s, which said organ donation was “harus” (encouraged) and there was no need to differentiate between Muslim and non-Muslim blood.
At the same time, many Islamic scholars and mufti have already explained that Muslims could receive organs and blood from non-Muslim donors and vice-versa.
We should now work together to encourage the public to register themselves as organ and blood donors, since the number is still low compared to the increasing number of patients who urgently need organ transplant and blood transfusion.
From 1997 to September last year, only 1.2% or 362,450 of the Malaysian population have pledged to become organ donors.
This is quite worrying since, for kidney patients alone, there are about 20,000 individuals on the waiting list for a kidney transplant at present.
Unfortunately, the number of people who pledged their organs between January and November last year has also dropped to 40,000, compared with 50,000 donors within the same period in 2015.
It was reported that many people refused to make the pledge when stories on organ trafficking went viral in social media last year.
If we fail to stop the confusion and polemics on the issue, it will become more complicated and I am worried that more people would back off from their plan to become an organ and blood donor.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE
National Organ Donation Public Awareness Action Committee
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