CAIRO: The Ministry of Health reported a significant decline in illegal organ transplants since it launched a campaign against the practice in hospitals nationwide, said a ministry official.
Dr Abdel Rahman Shahin, spokesperson for the ministry, told Daily News Egypt that in 2006, a special department was assigned to monitor private hospitals and medical centers in Egypt, where most illegal organ transplants are conducted and a thriving business of organ trading exists.
The ministry has since discovered several violations in well-known private hospitals in the country, he said.
According to Shahin, the current law stipulates that both the donor and the recipient be “alive, limiting the organs that can be donated only to kidney and portions of the liver.
The current law also dictates that both patients be Egyptian.
According to Shahin, findings from the ministry’s investigation were sent to the public prosecution office.
“Many physicians are under investigation – one of whom received a three-year jail sentence for conducting an illegal organ transplant, Shahin added.
The increase of such illegal procedures in 2008 – after a slight decline in 2007 – was a stark reminder that the current law needed to be amended, he said.
The Ministry of Health and the Doctors’ Syndicated tabled a draft law to the People’s Assembly, which is currently discussing the proposed amendments.
While the draft law will not directly prohibit organ donation between Muslims and Copts, Shahin said, it will give priority to family members, de facto limiting the occurance of inter-faith transplants.
The proposed law will also create a “waiting list system, where patients are listed according to the severity of their cases.
One of the amendments proposed in the draft law is to allow non-living donors.
Delaying the PA’s decision on the draft law was the debate around the Sharia definition of death.
“Both the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Mohamed Sayed Tantawy and the Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa agreed that organs from non-living donors are permissible, Shahin said.
Both agreed that when the brain stops functioning, the patient is considered dead.
On the other hand, the Islamic Research Center (affiliated with Al-Azhar institution) defined death as the complete deportation of life from the human body that is preceded by the failure of all organs.
However, to eliminate all doubt, the Ministry of Health suggested forming an independent committee comprised of doctors, public figures and a judge, to confirm the death of the donor as well as list patients according to their condition.
Under the new law, all organ transplants will be conducted in public hospitals so the ministry can monitor the procedure.
The new law will penalize doctors who perform illegal organ transplants, who will be subject to a maximum sentence of 15 years in jail. “The current law’s maximum penalty was a three-year jail sentence, Shahin said.
Moreover, the hospitals or medical centers allowing illegal operations may be fined up to LE 1 million and can be shut down, he added.
While the law is being discussed in the PA, Shahin said, the minister of health issued a new decision to monitor organ transplants, making it obligatory for the donor and recipient to get approval from the Ministry of Health and the Doctors’ Syndicate.
The PA is expected to approve the draft law next April, Shahin said.
Last November, as part of its crackdown on the illegal business of organ trading, the Ministry of Health made spot checks on hospitals around Egypt.