PA discussions of organ transplant law to exclude Religious Committee

Yasmine Saleh
7 Min Read

CAIRO: The People’s Assembly (PA) is set to take a final decision on the new controversial organ donation law as it gears up for the new parliamentary session in a few weeks.

Set to settle the debate is Islam’s definition of “death, PA Chairman Fathi Sorour excluded the PA’s religious affairs committee from the discussions, leaving the matter in the hands of the health committee.

Opposition and National Democratic Parties MPs agreed on the importance on including the religious affairs committee in the discussions.

“I find it very strange that [Sorour] did not invite us [the religious affairs committee] to the discussions while the whole debate revolves around the Islamic definition of death, Sheikh Mahmoud Hamdy Megahed, member of the religious affairs committee, told Daily News Egypt.

Megahed explained that the PA’s chairman is the only one who has the authority to involve the committees in such debates.

Dr Akram Al-Shaer, MP and member of the health committee who is also affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), expressed his opposition to the new organ donation law on Al-Saa’a satellite channel last Thursday.

“I will only approve the new law if it was issued based on a correct definition of death; which is the permanent and definite stop of both the heart and the brain, which should be declared by a professional physician based on an extremely accurate and scientific analysis, Al-Shaer said.

However, Al-Shaer explained that the PA committee in charge of discussing the new law did not mention the stopping of the heart to be an indication of death, leaving only brain failure as the only indication.

“This is totally against the [Sharia], Al-Shaer said.

According to Al-Shaer, who is also a practicing physician, “the patient whose brain stops, yet whose heart is still functioning is not dead; he is in the dying stage but as long as his heart is still beating he is not dead.

Mohamed Khalil Kwaitah, a National Democratic Party (NDP) MP phoned in during Al-Shaer’s interview on Al-Saa’a and said that “the Islamic Research Center [affiliated with Al-Azhar institution] defined death to be a complete deportation of life from the human body that is preceded by the failure of all of the organs of the body.

“Also the State Council issued a fatwa that said that no one can claim a person dead as long as any part of his body is still [functioning], Kwaitah added.

According to Al-Shaer, “Sheikh Abdel Aziz Bin Baz, the former Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, issued a fatwa in Saudi Arabia in 1986, indicating that organ donation is not against Sharia, yet when he learned from doctors that the heart of the person from whom the organs are taken will still be beating, he revoked his fatwa.

However, the organ donation law is still accredited in Saudi Arabia, and according to Al-Shaer, the law was approved before Sheikh Bin Baz revoked it and it was hard to cancel it then.

Sheikh Bin Al-Baz later declared that organ donation is Islamically forbidden, Al-Shaer said.

In 1997, Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawy, Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, declared organ donation permissible. Sheikh Tantawy also announced his intention to donate his organs to be transplanted in other needy patients after his death.

Late Sheikh Mohamed Metwaly El-Shaarawy had spoken out about the controversy, arguing that “a human being should neither surrender nor replace any part of his or her body because it is a gift from God.

Sheikh Ibrahim Negm, the spokesperson of the Egyptian Grand Mufti Sheikh Ali Gomaa, told Daily News Egypt that no new fatwas were issued by the Grand Mufti or Dar El Ifta on the issue after the 1997 fatwa of Sheikh Tantawy.

Moreover, the debate will not consider the Christian point of view, fueling further controversy.

Last August, Chairman of the Doctors’ Syndicate and chairman of the PA’s health committee Dr Hamdy El-Sayed said that the PA will not discriminate between Muslims and Christians when it comes to this debate but added however that organs will not be transplanted from a Christian donor to a Muslim patient and vice versa.

In his defense, El-Sayed explained to the Coptic Assembly of America, which raised the issue in August, that the draft law stipulates that organ donations are restricted to family members up to the fourth degree only, which is why “it is not possible for a Christian to donate organs to a Muslim and vice versa, he said.

“It is degrading to both religions if let’s say, a poor Christian has to sell his kidney to a rich Muslim, or a poor Muslim has to sell his kidney to a rich Christian. It is not right for either religion and that is why we made this law so we can stop organ trafficking, El-Sayed had said.

“It is not about trying to create differences between religions but merely to [combat] the trade of organs as much as we can.

El-Sayed’s rationale did not sit well with Bishop Marcos of the Coptic Assembly of America.

“We are all of the same Egyptian blood. If [this is aimed at] ending organ trafficking, we reject it because it may also occur between believers of the same religion, he said, describing the draft law as “very grave.

Bishop Marcos expressed concern that the new law may lead to prohibiting blood donations between Christians and Muslims or go as far as preventing doctors from treating patients of a different religion.

“We [Copts] are afraid that in the future there will be hospitals for Christians and hospitals for Muslims, he said.

Christians currently make up 6-10 percent of Egypt, which has a population of more than 76 million.s

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