UAE: Hesitant about organ donation? 23-year-old saved from fatal disease that claimed 3 siblings

Efforts are being taken to spread awareness about the importance of organ donation in schools and colleges, a top doctor said

by

Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Sun 28 Jan 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 28 Jan 2024, 9:46 PM

Several UAE residents and citizens remain hesitant about organ donation despite its potential to save lives, revealed a prominent doctor at the UAE Organ Donation and Transplantation Congress 2024.

Dr Luis Campos, Liver Transplant and Hepatobiliary Director at the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi (CCAD) shared the story of 23-year-old Nada, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, causing a continuous deterioration of her health over the years.

After losing three siblings to the disease, her prognosis was also looking very slim until her doctors suggested a double lung and liver transplant. The Egyptian girl travelled to Dubai to receive both organs from a deceased donor in a complex surgery that lasted approximately 14 hours. He said the surgery gave Nada a new lease of life. She no longer requires constant oxygen support and can enjoy a near-normal life.

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Attitude change

Dr Luis said that despite the awareness programs conducted in the UAE, residents and citizens were still hesitant to opt for organ transplants. "It will take time for them to change their mentality," he said. "And sometimes, it could be a generation before people start to think more positively about organ transplant."

He said part of the problem was that those approaching the families lacked the tools to convince them. "They are either not from the same religion or race," he said. "People think that religious beliefs don't allow them to donate, but several religious leaders have reiterated over many years that donating organs do not go against religious beliefs."

He drew parallels to the awareness about recycling held in countries like the USA. "People went into schools and educated children about the importance of recycling," he said. "They then went back to their families and began correcting the older generation. It was a smart move."

He said similar efforts are being taken in the UAE, with volunteers going to schools and colleges to spread awareness about the importance of organ donation.

Right to donation

According to Dr Ali Abdulkarim Al Obaidli, Chairman of the National Committee for Organ Transplantation, all patients have the right to receive an organ should they require it. While speaking at the conference, he called for health insurance.

"The healthcare insurance, just like they support everything else, should support organ donation and transplantation in line with the United Nations sustainable development goals," he said.

The 4-day congress will also shed light on the achievements of Hayat- the National Programme for Donation and Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissue, operating under the Ministry of Health and Prevention.

It has garnered international recognition for its remarkable performance, becoming the world's best and fastest-growing programme in organ donation.

This accolade is attributed to the impressive increase in the number of donors after death per million population, with the UAE achieving a remarkable 417% growth over the past five years.

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