Organ Donation and Saudi Arabia: Is it Permissible?


One often hears, knows of or sees many Saudis who either leave the Kingdom to get some kind of an organ transplant or that an organ for transplant has been identified for them outside of Saudi Arabia.  I also remember how in many third world countries around the world it was very popular for individuals from poor families to readily sell a kidney on the black market as it was a way for them to receive a large amount of quick cash.  So it made me curious as to whether organ donation is actually permissible in Saudi Arabia?  How widespread is it?

To begin with I do not believe I personally know any Saudis who are or have agreed to be an organ donor (in the event of death).  I do know Saudis who have without hesitation donated a kidney, part of their own liver or stem cells to save the life of a loved one.  But unlike the USA where one is asked when obtaining or renewing their drivers license if they wish to be an organ donor, to the best of my knowledge, that does not happen in Saudi Arabia.

So is organ donation permissible in Saudi Arabia?  I found a very interesting and enlightening article in Arab News which shed some light on this topic.  And it is relatively current as well having been published on 01 May 2009.  According to the article, “Donating organs to the sick or injured people is not considered to be an obligation by many in the Arab world and Saudi Arabia in particular. Yet hundreds, if not thousands, of Saudi men, women and children are forced to endure pain and misery in the absence of healthy organs.” The article goes on to say that prominent Saudi businessman, Abdul Aziz Alturki, is seeking to raise awareness in Saudi society on the crucial need for donation of organs.

According to Alturki, “We are venturing in a new area, and we need to learn from the experience of others. We have to have clear-cut guidelines on organ transplantation.” The article advises that Saudi scholars have in fact encouraged organ donation in Saudi Arabia since 1930 reminding that in Islam saving life is more important than anything else.

Prominent Islamic scholar and well-known medical practitioner Dr. Mohammad Haytham Al-Khayat said organ donation was highly recommended in Islam. “It is a kind of ‘sadaqa jariya,’ which is essentially an act of charity whose benefits continue after a person passes away,” he said, referring to a decision taken by leading Islamic scholars in Kuwait some years ago that endorsed organ donation and organ transplantation.

He said there are differences of opinion regarding organ donation from a person who is clinically dead. “Many of our scholars say one has to be sure that the man or woman is 100 percent dead before his or her organs are taken out for transplantation,” he said.

Therefore in closing this posting I have come away with the understanding that organ donation is permissible and encouraged but that there seems to be an overall lack of awareness.  So whose job should it be to initiate and mount an educational campaign on the importance of organ donation in Saudi Arabia?  It seems to me this would be a very worth campaign for an organization or institution to undertake as part of a civic social responsibility (CSR) program.


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