ORGAN TRANSPLANT: Cultural taboos still inhibit donation
I REFER to the report "Long wait for transplant" on May 20. The report indicated how critical it is with close to 15,000 unfortunate Malaysians of all races living in the hope of getting a new organ to survive.
The fact is the supply of organs for donation is low, but the demand is on the rise every year.
According to the World Health Organisation, the organ donor rate in Malaysia is only 1.4 per one million people. This is in sharp contrast to developed countries, such as Spain, which is at the top with 34.4 per one million.
Although 194,001 people have pledged their organs so far, there has been only 370 actual donors since 1976.
As Malaysian Transplantation Society president Datuk Dr Harjit Singh points out, cultural taboos are still one of the main reasons why Malaysians are not willing to donate their organs.
Another reason is the failure of pledgers to notify their next of kin that their organs should be harvested upon death.
A significant percentage of potential donors are lost either to medical failure, or through an inability to obtain consent for donation.
The process, from donation to transplant, is complex and is influenced by many factors such as legislation, training, public attitude and cost. The major impediment to developing an organ transplant programme in the country is the lack of cadaveric donors.
There are no major ethical issues in cadaveric transplantation programmes and the majority, if not all religions view organ and tissue donation as an act of charity, compassion, love and benevolence.
What is essential is to continuously disseminate accurate information, increase public awareness and motivate people of all races to donate organs.
This is the task being undertaken by the Organ Donation Awareness Promotion Action Committee with the support of the Health Ministry and other non-governmental organisations.
Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, chairman, Organ Donation Awareness Promotion Action Committee, Health Ministry, Putrajaya