World Organ Donation Day: Malaysia’s Lack of Donors

‘Give yourself and those in need an elixir of life by pledging your organs’ — Mohith Angadi

The first ever organ donor donated a kidney to his twin brother in 1954 — and he was Ronald Lee Herrick. In 1990, Doctor Joseph Murray got the Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine for his achievements in organ transplantation. [1] From that moment on, organ donation has been widely practiced around the world with the pledges for donation increasing markedly through the decades. Likewise, World Organ Donation Day is celebrated on this day, 13th of August to emphasize awareness about the importance of donating organs and also to encourage people to volunteer for the same. This day helps to make people understand the vital role of organ donation in saving someone’s life.

In conjunction with this year’s World Organ Donation Day, let’s see how the practice of organ donation has been received and acted upon in Malaysia. From 1997 to April this year, there have been a total of 2,641 solid organ transplants performed with majority accounting to kidney transplants. Others involved the liver, heart and lungs. Most of these organs were donated by living donors with 767 from the deceased. But in overall statistics, as of June this year, there have been 515530 pledges for organ donation.

Organs & Tissues that can be donated in Malaysia

It has been reported that ever since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a huge halt in both pledges and transplant procedures owing to the fear of contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This fear — though valid to the eyes of many, is still something to be frowned upon as that also meant a reduction in the availability of living donor organs. Also referring to the same, about 10,278 patients are currently on the waitlist for deceased donor organs.

Among the other reasons of donation scarcity would definitely be religio-cultural reasons in which individuals either prefer their body to remain intact post-mortem, or believe that organ donation goes against their religion, despite it being declared permissible in Islam and encouraged in Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Sikhism. A large number of pledged donors whose organs remain unretrieved are due to the inability of obtaining consent from their next of kin or family.

In contrary to being a noble act, deceased donor organ donations are typically perceived to be handled with lesser care and citing that — many individuals refuse to pledge for donation as they prefer having family receive their intact body as to not add on to the grief — but in reality, donor bodies are handled and treated with the same, if not more care than live-donors. Healthcare providers, as well as the Transplant Resource Centres can be consulted at any time to clarify any matter big or small, prior to signing up.

As said earlier, the grief from losing a loved one is unexplainable and families take a great time to get through the pain. In instances of such, consent for organ retrieval and donation is a big step by the healthcare provider. The counselling and approach that precedes this can be regarded either ways and may often result in the inability to obtain consent and thus, dissolving the pledge.

Thankfully now, with the lectures and campaigns conducted by the National Transplant Resource Centre in Hospital Kuala Lumpur, the numbers have been gradually increasing and the pending need of procedures could also be settled. The other transplant resource centres are Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun, Ipoh , Hospital Penang and Hospital Sultanah Aminah, Johor. [2] Those who wish to be a donor, can either walk-in to the centres in these hospitals, or fill out a form online in



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