Kuwait expert calls for greater organ donation awareness

October 22, 2011

A health official in Kuwait said that the country had moved forward in organ donation awareness, but insisted that more was needed.

“Kuwait has relatively high rates of organ donation when compared with other Middle Eastern countries,” Dr Mustafa Al Mousawi, the head of the Ministry of Health’s (MoH) Organ Procurement Unit, said.

“However, it is still behind the US and Europe in this area. We have a slightly higher rate in Kuwait because we have been organising ourselves since 1996. We started a course, with the help of Eurotransplant, which made a great deal of difference, but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” he said, quoted by Kuwait Times.

Around 25 per cent of the families of deceased individuals in Kuwait give their consent when contacted to donate their loved ones’ organs to save others’ lives.

“While this is a higher-than-average figure for the Middle East, however, it’s still some way behind the same figure in Europe, which currently stands at 75 per cent, so there’s still progress to be made in this area,” Al Mousawi said.

The senior MoH official attributed the differing attitudes towards organ donation between the Middle East and Europe to culture.

“Many from Islamic backgrounds feel that it is wrong to alter the body of the deceased. However, we asked religious leaders about this issue specifically and they said that because you are saving people’s lives as a result, it is permissible. There is a verse in the Quran that says that saving one person’s life is like saving a whole nation,” he said.

The issue of the acceptability of altering or performing any form of surgery on a deceased person’s body is an age-old one, he said.

Religious leaders

“Religious leaders, many centuries ago, asked this same question. For example they asked if it would be permissible to remove a valuable jewel from the stomach of the deceased. They decided that it would be acceptable if the jewel was the property of another.”

Another question was about removing a living baby from its mother’s womb if the mother has passed away before giving birth

“Would it not be acceptable to operate on the body of the deceased, in order to save the life of another person?”

However, a survey by the daily highlighted how culture influences people’s attitudes towards the issue.

‘It is not right’

“It is not right. We should leave like we came,” Aysha, a 56-year-old mother of four, said. “However, if one of my sons was in need of an organ I would hope that he would receive one from someone who had been a donor. Maybe it is something we judge from afar without thinking about the further consequences.”

Sara, a 22-year-old Kuwaiti student, insisted, however, that it wass not culture that prevented people from donating or approving the donation of organs, but something far more basic and self-centered.

“Many just do not like the idea of it,” she said. “It bothers them, and they do not want to consider why it is important and what a difference it would make. I think it is selfish to refuse. Saving a life is one of the best things we can do as humans, even if it is something ‘we do’ in death.”

According to Dr Al Mousawi, organ donation would certainly reduce waiting lists for organs, but would also eradicate many disturbing practices that some people awaiting transplants adopt out of desperation.

He said that many people from the Middle East travelled to poor areas in India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Egypt in search of organs for sale, despite the legal and ethical questions such behavior raises.

Unrelated donors

In the past, there were also been numerous instances in Kuwait of unrelated donors suddenly offering a kidney to a “friend” awaiting a transplant, the daily said. Upon further investigation, however, the donor was often discovered to be selling the organ in question to the other individual and to have no other relationship to them.

Dr Al Mousawi added, however, that this problem was successfully combated with further regulation and mandatory scrutiny of any case in which an unrelated donor comes forward to announce a wish to donate.


Twenty-five per cent of deceased donate



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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