KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 21 ― Only a fraction of the nearly 400,000 pledges for organ donations are fulfilled, with familial objections often frustrating donors’ wishes for their body parts to be given to those in need.
According to National Transplant Resource Centre (NTRC) clinical manager Dr Hasdy Haron, just 611 pledges for organ donations were realised in 2016 out of a total of 381,353 registered donors.
Dr Hasdy explained that organ donations were ultimately still dependent on the approval of family members despite the pledges made by the donors while they were still alive.
Although the donors may have felt strongly enough to register with the centre, the sentiment may not be shared by their family members, who may also not be aware of the pledges.
“When it comes to actual organ donation, most people refuse because they do not want the deceased to suffer anymore, and also (there might be) no consensus among family member to decide ‘yes’ to organ donation,” Dr Hasdy told Malay Mail Online.
“Compared to 2015, the actual organ donors had decreased by about 45 per cent last year while the number of pledgers increased between 5 and 10 per cent,” he explained.
In Malaysia, pledges do not necessarily mean that a person’s organs will be harvested after death.
Following death, the NTRC evaluates the organs of deceased pledgers as well as patients declared brain dead for potential harvesting.
It must then obtain the consent of the donor's next of kin or family members, even if they are already registered to have their organs harvested.
Dr Hasdy said that one of the main reasons cited by families when refusing to allow organ harvesting was that their religion did not allow this.
In the NTRC website, it explains that no religion expressly opposes the act of organ donation.
According to the NTRC’s data, 355 out of 155,901 pledges from the Chinese community were realised in 2016, the highest of the country’s ethnic groups.
This was followed by 167 out of 87,201 pledges from the Indian community and 47 out of 115,597 Malay from the Malays.
Organ donation re-entered public attention this year after controversial entertainer Wee Meng Chee or Namewee posted a video on YouTube asking if his organ donor card should carry an indication that he was not a Muslim.
In the video apparently mocking the recent enforcement against pig-bristle brushes, Wee said he wanted to avoid situations where he could be posthumously prosecuted in the event his “non-halal” organs are given to Muslims.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah responded to clarify that there were no such thing, explaining that organs harvested from donors were distributed solely on clinical criteria, such as waiting times and suitability between donors and recipients.
He also cited two edicts from the Muzakarah National Fatwa Committee Council in Islamic Affairs, one which said heart and eye donations were “harus” (encouraged) while the other said there was no need to differentiate between Muslim and non-Muslim blood.
Federal Territories mufti Datuk Dr Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri was also reported as saying that there were no restrictions on organ donations and transfers between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Besides Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin and AirAsia group chief executive Tan Sri Tony Fernandes are two other notable figures that are pledged donors.
In Malaysia, children, the mentally-disabled persons and convicts are not allowed to donate organs. Prisoners are only allowed to do so under life threatening circumstances involving close relatives.
Those who wish to pledge as a donor can do so by submitting an online form here.