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Against Bureaucracy and Tradition.. Postmortem Organ Donors’ Stories in Egypt

Within the “Posthumous Organ Donation” group in Egypt on Facebook, there was a state of great joy among the members. 

“Finally, you can document the approval of organ donation after death while you are sitting at home,” writes one of the members. Recent developments in e-government services have allowed Egyptians to document their desire to donate their organs, such as kidneys, liver, cornea and other parts of the body, in the event of their death in an accident or in hospitals. . 

The importance of this step stems from the fact that the complex and lengthy procedures constitute a major obstacle for those wishing to take this step. 

Sarah Fouad Mikhail, 34, who co-founded the group, said, “Unfortunately, more than 99 percent of those who have a desire to donate their organs refrain from doing so because of government red tape and the obstacles people face, which makes their desire diminish.” She adds: “For example, I spent 3 hours on one of the trips to the Real Estate Registration Department, because the employee did not even know the organ donation form.

She added: “The employees had no idea about the matter, and some of them believed that this donation was illegal or forbidden by Sharia, and they sometimes got into sharp arguments to persuade those who came to them to change their mind.”

So Sarah and her colleagues tried to apply online and test the result, and were thrilled when they succeeded. Sarah says that there are many intellectual and social obstacles that prevent people in Egypt from accepting organ donation after death. much.  

Sarah pointed out that what made her think about taking the organ donation step was her follow-up to some foreign films that talked about the suffering of many people who were waiting for a miracle to happen to save a loved one.

Hence, I participated in the creation of the group in 2014, noting that its aim is to clarify a lot of information that is still vague to most Egyptian people, how to document their desire, and ways to overcome the difficulties they face in this way.

Over the past weeks, a state of controversy prevailed on social networking sites, as a number of Egyptian artists announced their desire to donate their organs after their death to those in need. The artist, Elham Shaheen, started this controversy when she called, during a book signing ceremony, for the largest possible number of Egyptians to pledge to donate their organs after death. The artist, Rania Youssef, and the Egyptian parliament member, writer Farida Al-Shobashi, responded to the invitation. 

For members of the group, this debate is healthy, spreading awareness of an idea they have been calling for for years, without an adequate response.  

First donor 

Youssef Radi Abdel-Malik, 30, one of the founders of the post-mortem organ donation group, says he is probably the first Egyptian to get a document proving a desire to donate. 

Radi, who works as a civil engineer in the Egyptian Ministry of Housing, had obtained the donation document 4 years ago when he was twenty-six years old, explaining that the idea came to his mind during his search for bad social habits that restrict the lives of Egyptians, including the fear of organ donation after death. Despite the absence of any damage to the donor and his family in all moral, religious and health aspects.

He added: “I started searching in law books, where I found that donation has been allowed since 2010, with a clear executive regulation, and I knew how to donate by following the steps that begin with signing a declaration in the real estate registry (the notary) with an emphasis on the absence of any pressure or access. on a physical meeting.
 
He recounts: “The matter was new in Egypt, despite the passage of 7 years since the law was issued at the time of my donation. Therefore, the director of the real estate registry seemed surprised because it was the first case that he passed.”

Egypt had issued a decision to organize the transfer of organs in 2010, after 8 years of deliberations. While the discussions at the time focused on the definition of death, clinical death, and the state’s role in financing organ transplants for necessity and combating organ trafficking, the law also stipulated the possibility for people to donate their organs after their death, but the article did not receive attention at the time, and no one sought to activate it.

Radi continues: “The real estate registry official was cooperative, and reviewed with me the law, the executive regulations and the procedures followed, and when I finished I went to the Higher Committee for the transfer of members in the Ministry of Health, and also faced a state of astonishment there because I was the first case in Egypt, and they asked for legal opinion in this regard.”

After the committee confirmed the legality of the request, they gave him the document acknowledging that he was an organ donor, in case of death in an accident or in a hospital. 

Regarding his goal of establishing a group on Facebook, he replied: “After my story spread, some people started contacting me to find out what I did and the steps I took, so I decided with some friends to establish that group to clarify things and steps for many people.”

“bad luck”

For his part, computer engineer Bishoy Khairy, 30, says that he signed the donation document last year.

He pointed out in his speech to the “Al-Hurra” website that he faced some obstacles when he went to one of the real estate registry departments, as some had warned him that it might be religiously forbidden, and that this might be used to trade with its members, and added: “But after taking a response, I managed to convince them of the nobility and highness of my goal. Which aims to help others one day and he may be an only child to his parents.”
 
Khairy stressed that he is still hiding the matter from his parents and family, for fear that they will consider his step a “bad omen” for his life, especially since he is still in the prime of youth, and that one of the conditions for accepting to donate his organs is that he died in a car accident or a serious illness for him. Hospital bed.

Legal and Religious Challenges

For his part, the President of Ain Shams University sent a message to the community about the importance of activating the law that allows the transfer of organs from the recently deceased, like other countries, because it will contribute very significantly to saving the lives of thousands of patients, according to Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Al-Matini added that the only obstacle to activating the law is psychological and societal, not medical or religious, especially after the approval of the law by Al-Azhar and the Church.
 
Al-Matini stressed that the donation is currently limited to the donation of a living person to another, considering that this does not solve the problem, and here Sarah Fouad agrees with him, who says that Egypt witnesses traffic accidents that claim the lives of thousands of people every year (13,000 victims as an annual average), She said that the organ donation law only allows the collection of organs from the dead who lost their lives in accidents or during their death in hospital from a stroke, for example, or who died clinically. 

Sarah points out that the committee responsible for organ transplantation in the Ministry of Health has repeatedly promised to activate the mechanisms of the law when it has a sufficient number of donors, allowing the development of a system that includes the presence of banks to preserve organs and linking that system with hospitals, but so far, the numbers are still few and marginal. 

Despite the approval of Al-Azhar, Dar Al-Ifta, and the Church, it is permissible for Muslims and Christians to donate their organs, but the culture of prohibition is still prevalent among many Egyptians.

Dina Radi, 54, one of the group’s members, agrees with her, saying that she is upset by the spread of an “old and strict” fatwa by the late Islamic preacher, Muhammad al-Shaarawy, on communication platforms, according to which it was forbidden to donate organs after death, on the pretext that the members of the human body belong to his Lord. It is not owned by him. 

In her interview with Al-Hurra, Radi says: “Unfortunately, there are many who were convinced by this fatwa, even though the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, the Dar Al-Ifta and many respected religious scholars affirmed that there is nothing wrong with this issue and that it contains a lot of good for humans.” Radi adds that she documented her acknowledgment of donating her organs because of the words of her mother, who always advised her to give the last piece of bread to a needy person, instead of throwing it in the garbage.

And she recounts: “My mother’s words affected me very much. If we, as Egyptians in our popular culture, respect the loaf of living to this degree, then it is more correct to respect our bodies that God has given us and not to make them food for worms at a time that can benefit from our sick members who are in dire need.”

Khairy agrees with her, who believes that removing bureaucratic obstacles will change the culture of donation dramatically, saying: “The reason for the majority’s reluctance to register to donate is to be lazy to take a step that takes a lot of effort and fatigue without having any return in the short term.”

Khairy is betting that the “good metal” of the Egyptians will eventually prevail, and the culture of wills for donation will become a regular thing in the near future

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