Volunteer hands- CC via Pixabay
CAIRO – 30 September 2018: In an unprecedented move, Egypt’s church has allowed post-mortem organ donation.
“Organ donation after death is permissible, if any one wants to write a will [for organ donation], he/she can do so,” Pope Tawadros II said in response to a question posed by a young Christian man at a newly-inaugurated church in New Jersey.
Pope Tawadros is visiting the U.S., where he inaugurated two orthodox churches named after Virgin Mary and Saint Mina in New Jersey.
Post-mortem donation and organ transplantation are debatable among Egyptians and religious institutions, particularly Islamic bodies; some religious edicts and fatwas prohibit organ transplantation on the ground that Islam does not allow Muslims to give up their organs by selling or donating whether during their lifetimes or after death.
However, Dar Al-Iftaa (Fatwa Council) has allowed for organ transplants from living or dead donors in cases where they are meant to save the life of an end-stage patient and on the condition that such transplants are legal, and should not include any financial benefit for the donor, his/her family or his/her heirs in cases where the donor is deceased.
According to a report issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2010, Egypt was described as a hub for organ trafficking and is the country with the highest number of organ transplantionss in the Middle East.
Consequently, the Egyptian Parliament approved a draft law in 2010 allowing organ donations and transplants, highlighting the necessity of ensuring equity and transplants for low-income patients that will be financed by the government. It also proposed the shutdown of commercial organ trading and organ trafficking. It allowed donation only upon death and prohibited the buying and selling of human organs and tissues.
The punishment for such activities includes imprisonment and a fine ranging between LE 20,000 and LE 100,000. If the act was committed on a living person, it would result in the imprisonment of no more than seven years; if the donor dies then the punishment can include a fine of up to LE 200,000.
Yet, the law is believed to have some loopholes that could allow for manipulation regarding the illicit organ trade, and it poses few penalties ranging between six months and a year.
The Ministry of Health and Population will establish the biggest international organ transplantation center in the Middle East at El-Sheikh Zayed Al-Nahyan Hospital.
Although donating organs is done for a good cause, this is not to be confused with ‘organ theft’ in any way. There has been recent cases of organ removals without permission in Egypt.
Mohamed Abdel Tawab, who died in Kasr Al-Ainy Hospital due to a drop in blood pressure as he was awaiting a cardiac catheterization, had his cornea removed without authorization.
Magdi Morshed, member of the Health Committee at the Parliament, said in an interview with “Yahdoth Fi Misr” TV show that the cornea is not an organ, and that it is a tissue. Thus, he believes that its removal without permission is not a breach of the law regulating organ transplants. On the other hand, MP Sherin Farrag said that the hospital’s actions were illegal and that the perpetrators broke the law.
Additional reporting by Marina Gamil and Dania Akkawi