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    Volume 9 Issue 15| April 9, 2010|

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Straight Talk

Giving from the Heart

Nadia Kabir Barb

These individuals are alive because of those who donated their organs.

I am sure most of us have at one point or another in our lives had a moment of introspection where we have pondered as to what our purpose is in the greater scheme of things or wondered why we were put on God's green Earth. I am also sure that most of the time we come up empty-handed and have no clue what the answer might actually be. Contemplating one's navel is something we humans have made into an art form. I, being no exception to the rule, have also found myself in more than one occasion sitting and speculating as to my function in the great journey of life and ended up with a rather large and unhelpful “question mark”. But recently on my soul searching quests I had a very bizarre and slightly morbid epiphany.

I was listening to the radio and they were talking about organ donations and the fact that there are “more than 10,000 people in the UK” who are currently in need of a transplant. I was surprised to find that out of this number, 1000 people each year will die waiting as there are not enough organs available. That means that three people each day will die because there are not enough organs for transplant available in the UK.

What was also quite worrying is that people from “South Asian” communities living in the UK have a much greater chance of needing a kidney transplant than the general population. This is primarily due to the fact that they are more prone to illnesses such as diabetes or high blood pressure, both of which are major causes of kidney failure.

Although the need for organ donations is almost three to four times higher in South Asian communities than among the general population, the donation rates are sadly said to be very low among South Asian people, which in turn decrease the chances of finding a successful match. This piece of information troubled me and I found myself trawling the internet for more information.

Despite not being very medically inclined I knew that organs for transplant need to be carefully matched to the recipient of the transplant to make sure that the blood and tissue groups are compatible. However, I was unaware that though organs are matched by blood group and tissue type (for kidney transplantation), it is more likely for patients from the same ethnic group to be a close match. According to statistics, only “1% of people on the National Health Service (NHS) Organ Donor Register are from the South Asian Community”.

What this means is that someone from the South Asian population living in the UK will have to wait on average almost twice as long as a white person for a kidney transplant.

Currently, there are almost 1,500 South Asian people in the UK who are waiting for an organ transplant. However, due to the lack of available organs many of these people will die while waiting. I cannot imagine how it must feel to live in the hope that an organ will become available to someone or how the families of the recipients must feel when they wait for an organ transplant for a child or someone dear to them. It must be a dilemma for the recipient to think that the end of another person's life might mean the beginning of theirs. But what better meaning can one's life have than to save someone else's?

What I realised is that whether it is blood, bone marrow or organ donation, we South Asians seem to drag our heels a great deal. I am not sure what the reason is but as a community there appears to be a huge amount of reluctance to donate any of the above. It could be because people do not have adequate information or knowledge about how or where they should go to give blood or how it physically affects. There may be misconceptions that it is detrimental to health, unaware that blood replenishes itself in the body. Or there may be uncertainty whether their religion permits organ donation or not.

For this reason various campaigns have been launched targeting the South Asian community to try and dispel any misconceptions and also impart necessary information about topics such as giving blood or donating organs.

What I found very encouraging was that in 1996 the Muslim Law (Shariah) Council UK issued a fatwa on organ donation. The council stated that, the council supported organ donation and transplant as a means of “alleviating pain or saving life on the basis of the rules of the Shariah, that Muslims may carry donor cards” and that “the next of kin of a dead person, in the absence of a card or an expressed wish to donate their organs, may give permission to obtain organs from the body to save other people's lives.”

Although it is said that violating the body after death is forbidden in Islam, the Shariah believes this can be overruled when saving another person's life. This fatwa is said to be based on the Islamic principle of “al-darurat tubih al-mahzurat (necessities overrule prohibition)”. The Muslim Law Council UK fatwa also takes into account one of the basic aims of Islam which is the preservation of human life. “Whosoever saves the life of one person it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind.” (Holy Qur'an, chapter 5:32)

I hope that these recent campaigns in the UK to try and encourage more people especially from ethnic minorities to participate in giving blood, or joining the organ donation register in the UK will be successful. This is a topic that needs to be addressed by each and every country and each community therein.

After hearing and reading up on organ donation I have found myself seriously drawn to the idea of becoming an organ donor. As far as I am concerned, I definitely will not be needing my kidneys or heart or lungs etc. in the hereafter but someone here might. I may not have discovered the meaning of life but right now I am happy with the results of my soul searching.


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