Algeria organ donation lags
As patients die awaiting organ donations, the Algerian government is stepping up efforts to encourage more transplants.
By Walid Ramzi for Magharebia in Algiers – 20/10/10
Religious practices and legal hurdles have led to a severe shortage of organ donors in Algeria, but the government now has a plan to fix the problem.
On Tuesday (October 12th), Health Minister Djamel Ould Abbas announced the establishment of the Algerian Agency for Organ Transplantation.
"There are 16,600 people undergoing hemodialysis for life, which requires the establishment of this new agency," Ould Abbas said. The new department will work with the Algerian Kidney Institute, which will open next year and be the first of its kind in Africa.
''Algeria, which recorded 600 or 650 surgeries of organ transplants since 1986, is substantially behind in this field, compared to other countries,'' said Algerian Association for Kidney Dialysis and Transplant (SANDT) chief Tahar Rayane
According to Rayane, there were only 70 kidney transplants during 2010 for all of Algeria, despite 6,000 people on the waiting list. He added:
"During the last seven years, there were two kidney transplant surgeries from brain-dead patients," he added.
He said that the rate of progress of organ transplantation from brain-dead patients in Algeria is very slow, despite the fact that religious edicts and legal provisions permit the donation of organs.
Rayan stressed the need to take the necessary precautions to avoid the appearance of the organ smuggling, asking officials to not approve the opening of private clinics for organ transplants "in order to prevent this surgery from becoming a business for some doctors, and for the benefit of who pays more".
Professor Ben Abbagi, who specialises in kidney diseases, said Algerian law unnecessarily restricts organ donations by requiring that the donor be related by blood to the recipient.
The Algerian Association of Kidney Disease and Transplant says that the number of patients with chronic renal failure is increasing by nearly 5,000 cases annually. Some 6 million Algerians are at risk of chronic renal failure, which requires treatment either by dialysis or kidney transplantation.
"Because of my disease, I am under treatment of blood purification and intense emergency medical tests," 17 year-old Mohammed told Magharebia. "The problem is that most of my family members suffer from the same disease, so there is no benefit of a transplant that way, that's why it is necessary to have an organ transplant from a dead person."
"The scientific development in medicine and surgery has caused some problems, where it is easy to transplant organs to save human lives, but that may collide with a lot of legal, religious and social barriers," said Dr Boutemar.
Boutemar stressed the need "to identify other regulatory frameworks relating to the license holder of the right to decide for the body of the deceased, and the consolidation of the religious edicts on this matter".
However, legislative restrictions are not the only obstacle to more organ transplants in Algeria. Some religious experts oppose the practice.
"There is no consensus among the scholars in Islamic law about whether it is permissible or not permissible to remove and transplant human organs, whether from the living to the living or from the dead to the living, so they split into pros and cons," said Islamic scholar Mohammed Amiri.
The Supreme Islamic Council in Algeria said: "In relation to the living kidney or bone marrow donor, this situation does not pose any legal problems, but always remains within the framework of ethics that must be considered, such as the necessity for the donor to have full mental health, not to trade with the organs and finally, the donor must be volunteer and not forced."