BEFORE Abdul Sattar Edhi breathed his last, he made it clear that he wished to donate his organs to help those in need and as a way of encouraging others to follow his example. Upon his death in 2016, at the age of 88, his corneas were donated to two blind patients at the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation. Edhi’s final act of generosity gave two individuals the blessing of sight, something most take for granted. However, despite repeated efforts and lobbying by the SIUT and the Edhi Foundation, organ donation remains an alien concept for most Pakistanis. While it is practised in Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran and other regional states including Sri Lanka, Pakistan still does not have a culture of organ donation. Even when someone wishes to donate their organs posthumously, their families are often not ready to fulfil their last wish or other hurdles are created along the way. This glaring gap between demand and supply, and growing income inequality, has given rise to a black market for human organs, where surgeries are performed illegally and without the necessary post-operative care — often on the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. To counter these dangerous practices, while providing vital services to those most in need, some parliamentarians have been trying to pass laws that would encourage and facilitate deceased organ donation.
For instance, since last year, Senator Mian Mohammad Ateeq of the MQM has been trying to pass an amendment to the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Bill. The revision would allow for a distinction made on the CNICs of organ donors, which would make their consent clear in the event of a fatal accident. As noted by the senator, such a mechanism is already in place in several countries around the world. But it seems neither Nadra nor the other members of the Senate are ready for change.
Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2019