CAIRO: The People’s Assembly (PA) officially approved Saturday a draft law on organ donations and has referred it to the Shoura Council (Parliament’s Upper House) for deliberations.
On Saturday, the PA’s health committee and the constitutional and legislative affairs committee signed off on the draft law which has been discussed in parliament for two years.
However, at the end of the session PA speaker Fathi Sorour referred the law to the advisory Shoura Council even though this is not constitutionally required. Sorour justified his decision by saying that President Hosni Mubarak wanted the input of the Shoura Council due to the sensitivity of the topic.
After the Shura Council give their input, the draft law will be voted on in the PA for it to pass. Sorour gave the Shura Council one month for their deliberations.
The main point of contention in the committee discussion – and indeed in parliament at large – was agreeing on a definition of what constitutes death. Although clinical death in the medical profession is brain death, many MPs argued that death must involve both brain death and cardiac arrest.
For this reason, the committees pointed out that the legislation would not define a patient’s death and decided that cases of organ donation were to be decided by a panel of three experts for each individual case. The Higher Committee for Organ Transplants would appoint the experts in conjunction with the Ministry of Health.
Muslim Brotherhood MP Hisham Al-Kady who was present during the discussions told Daily News Egypt Sunday, “What was agreed on was the ruling of the Islamic Research Center, which states that death is the cessation of all bodily functions, the brain, the heart and everything else.
“For this law to come to light after all these years we all had to agree on this definition, he added.
Additionally, any decision to remove organs before the panel had ruled would be considered first-degree murder and punishable by death. The law stipulates that that organ donation is restricted to family members of the fourth degree.
The law also indicated that low-income patients would be financed by the state for transplant operations. Health Minister Hatem El-Gabaly said that the operations would be processed according to priority, with a specialized committee assessing the order.
There has always been a religious debate in Islamic countries regarding organ transplants, with many opposed to the donation of organs after death.
There are 18 Muslim countries that have currently legalized organ donations, including Saudi Arabia. Head of the Doctors’ Syndicate Hamdy El-Sayyed said last week that organ donations could help 42,000 people in Egypt in need of transplants.
It was the Doctors’ Syndicate which first proposed organ donations in Egypt eight years ago, partly to stem the explosion of organ trafficking.