19,500 Malaysians on wait list for organ transplant

National Organ Donation Public Awareness Action Committee chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye (right) says the number of pledges has reached one per cent of the country's population. ― File pic
National Organ Donation Public Awareness Action Committee chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye (right) says the number of pledges has reached one per cent of the country's population. ― File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 3 — The number of patients needing organ transplants is expected to rise due to more people leading unhealthy lifestyles and putting themselves at risk of acquiring a non-communicable disease (NCD), warned an organ transplant expert.

Currently, there are more than 19,000 Malaysians reported to be on the waiting list for an organ transplant.

National Transplant Resource Centre chief clinical manager  Datin Dr Fadhilah Zowyah Mansor said while they encouraged people to become organ donors, the centre was also trying to get Malaysians to adopt a healthier lifestyle to lessen the chances of needing an organ transplant.

“Those who suffer from NCD like diabetes and hypertension should also be stricter in managing their health,” she said.

“Each year, 7,000 people are diagnosed with end-stage kidney disease in which treatment is only through kidney transplant. So, prevention is better than cure.”

Diseases like diabetes, if left uncontrolled, can lead to kidney failure.

Today, there are 19,479 patients waiting for a kidney transplant, seven for liver, four for heart, three for lungs and five for heart and lungs while there are now 327,738 people who have pledged to be organ donors from 1997 to last year.

National Organ Donation Public Awareness Action Committee chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said the number of pledges had reached one per cent of the country's population.

“It is a good achievement as we are looking to work harder this year through our awareness programme ‘Let’s Talk’. Also, last year we had 71 people who donated their organs and tissues to those in need," he said, adding that it was the highest number since the programme began in 1970.

He pointed out most donors did not pledge their organs but their families had taken the initiative to donate them.

“It is encouraging to see Malaysians wanting to give patients a new lease on life through donating their organs,” he said.

Lee said even though statistics showed more Malaysians were aware of the importance of organ donation, there were still many who were afraid and had misconceptions over the matter.