Organ transplant from dead legalised in UAE
Live donor transplants from a close relative are already being done in the country.
Giving hope to thousands of individuals on waiting lists, a ministerial decree has paved way for the much awaited cadaveric organ transplants in the UAE.
The step, which is considered a major development in the local health system, also aims to criminalise illegal organ transplant procedures and allows residents to register through their Emirates ID card as future organ donors.
Live donor transplants from a close relative are already being done in the country and a number of kidney transplants have been carried out.
Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention, recently issued the ministerial decree on declaration of death (defined as brain death). This allows treating doctors not to resuscitate a person without being held liable. The decree was urgently needed to enact legislation on declaration of death so as to protect hospitals and enable doctors to stop the suffering of brain-dead patients, said health experts.
It covers three main provisions: Death resulting from cardiac-respiratory arrest, death resulting from complete loss of brain functions and pediatric brain death guidelines.
Dr Amin Hussein Al Amiri, assistant undersecretary for public health policy and licensing sector at the ministry, said the decree complements the national programme for organ transplantation but excludes stem cells, blood cells and bone marrow transplants.
"This is a sustainable health solution, especially for individuals suffering from cancer, heart disease, pulmonary failure, hepatic fibrosis and kidney failure."
The UAE already criminalises illegal organ transplant procedures. "Consultants and specialists from different specialties will take a decision on whether to declare a patient dead based on a certain criteria," Dr Amiri told Khaleej Times.
If an individual has signed up as a donor, after his/death, a number of tests will be performed, including a tissue match with a possible recipient.
"The doctor is allowed as per the law to remove the ventilation and will not be questioned if he has followed the criteria," he said. The organ transplant team will be notified in advance to prepare to harvest the organs for their optimal use.
Registering as a donor
Dr Amiri said that the National Organ Transplant Committee was also developing a system to allow residents to register as possible donors and soon a national registry will also be set up. "A special card can be issued or it can be included in the national identity card since it is something that you always carry round," said Dr Amiri.
An organ bank will also be set up within hospitals that are certified for transplants. The decree also aims to provide financial support to patients, their families and healthcare providers.
After studying similar regional and global cases, a national committee composed of all local health authorities prepared the latest resolution in consultation with the General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments.
Dr Amiri said that currently, a number of patients diagnosed with kidney and liver failures go abroad to seek organ transplants. "Out of desperation, they fall prey to false promises made by non-specialised centres, especially those located in some Asian countries."
"Worse, they might become infected with AIDS and viral hepatitis as a result of the fraudulent procedure," he added.
Resolution to boost UAE's medical tourism
The resolution aims to help enhance the country's medical tourism. Significant investments are expected to pour into the country with the opening of new international centres specialising in organ transplants.
"We want to establish an environment where people will be motivated to donate their organs to help thousands of patients in need of transplants, reduce burden on hospitals, lessen costs on the state and society and urge insurance companies to cover organ transplants," said Dr Amin Hussein Al Amiri, assistant undersecretary for public health policy and licensing sector.
Dr Ali Abdul Kareem Al Obaidli, chair of the National Organ Transplant Committee, said this will establish a sustainable programme for organ transplants in the UAE. For future expansion of the programme, meetings will be held among local transplant centres such as Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Rashid University for Medical Sciences and Al Madina Hospital in the coming weeks.
Dr Marwan Al Mulla, director of the department of health regulation of Dubai Health Authority, said the decree will lead to rearrangement of priorities for hospital-based healthcare programmes to prevent patients in critical conditions to be moved to less efficient healthcare centres. "This will also increase hospitals' capacity and capability to receive more emergency cases that require intensive and continuous care."
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