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More organ donors please.......we are Somalis

By Muuse Yuusuf
Sunday, January 13, 2008


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Today the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has opened a national debate on a system of organ donation where organs of the dead will be made available to those who need them without prior consent unless the dead had opted out of the national register, or their families objected. The Prime Minister, who carries a donor card, sees this initiative as an important step in saving the lives of thousand of people who are either dying or are suffering due shortage of organs. Writing in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, the Prime Minister writes: “A system of this kind seems to have the potential to close the aching gap between the potential benefits of transplant surgery in the UK and the limits imposed by our current system of consent....,"


The current organ donation system in this country is based on consent where organs of those who consented will be transplanted onto needy patients. However, the new system will allow hospitals to utilise organs of the dead without prior consent, or in a more radical way a dead person will be presumed to have consented unless they had opted out or their relatives objected. The Prime Minister’s proposal even encourages medical staff to identify dying patients who could be potential organ providers so that those authorities who coordinate the organ donation system could be alerted.


In this country there are more than 1,000 people who die every year because of a shortage of organs such as kidneys, livers, hearts etc, as there are more than 8,000 who are on waiting lists, waiting patiently for a dying patient to save their life. Opinion polls show 90% of the British people are in favour of organ donation, while 40% of families refuse their relatives’ organs to be donated once they die, and this number increased to 75% among ethnic minority groups.


The debate over organ donation and issues around it, for example patients’ rights over their bodies and hence the importance of their consent, ethical questions over  sacredness of human body, benefits and dangers of organ transplantation etc is an ongoing national debate, and some patient groups have already criticised the Prime Minister’s proposal because they see this as though the state is taking over patients’ rights over their bodies, a debate that cannot be exhaustively covered in a short article like this. 


Now some of my readers will be quick to ask this question: why this writer is boring us by narrating a national debate of a great country, and what Somalis have got to do with such debate in an alien country, Somalis who have not been good in saving lives but wasting it in the past 17 years?  Or how relevant is the debate to Somalis’ current affairs? Even some readers might find it ridiculous to read the title “More organ donors please.......we are Somalis” and would argue that an appropriate tile would be: “No organ donors please...we are Somalis” because the last reflects current mood and realities on the ground where innocent lives are being lost daily due to violence. How a collapsed and rudimentary Somali health system which cannot even treat simple illness and disease such as polio is supposed to handle a complex organ transplantation operation?  Also, some readers will object the article on moral and religious grounds because they perceive it as against their culture and religion. My answer to these concerns is simple: the heart of the explicit message of the debate is how and to what extent human beings must go to save another fellow human being’s life - even to the extent of allowing the state to intervene in people’s lives and to take their rights over their bodies away from them? In my humble view this is what we Somalis need to understand and appreciate: sacredness of human life and how important it is to save and nurture it.  


Organ Donation

Give out h  Give out heart full of love

As I was reading some articles about the organ donation debate, as a Somali who happen to be in the UK, I could not help but to read the debate in the context of the health of, president of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Abdullahi Yusuf - who is now in London, receiving medical attention. Believe it or not the ailing president is a beneficiary of an organ donation, which could be argued as an act of ultimate human self-sacrifice, generosity and compassion. It is a well know fact Abdullahi Yusuf underwent a liver transplant in UK in 1990s, and is considered to be one the longest survivors of such operation. Although details of president’s health is a private matter and I don’t know how and who donated him the liver, it is the spirit of human generosity, self-sacrifice, and compassion in order to save the life of another fellow human being which is worth telling and sharing with others, and this is what made me compose this article. Say for example, if the act of a man who consented his organs to be utilised after his death, had saved Abdullahi’s life for a long time (16years?) and this human spirit of ultimate compassion has enabled him to fulfil some of his ambitions, for instance to become president of Somalia, why Abdullahi Yusuf could not and cannot learn from this personal experiences and use this lesson as a guiding tool when managing affairs of this beautiful but troubled nation? Why is he so quick in believing in power of the barrel of the gun, which is something, that he is known of, and not in the power of human sacrifice, humility and compassion? Why there is so much bloodletting since he became president, when he himself when sworn as president he promised not to use force to resolve political disagreements? I hope Abdullahi Yusuf and his advisors will remind him of the importance of that human act of generosity that saved his life, so that he can start to change his character as a hard-nosed politician with a military mindset that some of his critics argue has been an obstacle to a genuine national reconciliation.


Also, why we Somalis can’t we engage in language of forgiveness, compassion, humility, self-sacrifice, and selflessness when dealing with other fellow Somalis who we happen to disagree with?  Even if we don’t have a sophisticated national health service that is capable of handling a complex operation such as liver or heart transplant, if some of us do object this practice for ethical or cultural reasons, and if there is no such need in Somalia– don’t we however have hearts that are full of love, kindness, and compassion, and if yes why can’t we give them to our fellow Somalis?  In other words why not give hearts full of love, kindness and compassion not full of hatred and greed? Why can’t we have amidst us good people like Dr. Hawa Abdi Dhiblawe, founder of the Hawa Abdi Hospital – the mother of all displaced people in Mogadishu, and Abdi Muuse Maaxaay. These two good Somali Samaritans have dedicated themselves in helping women and children who are in need of medical care and attention. Well done www.hiiran.com editorial board for nominating such good and brave Somali Samaritans as personalities of the year 2007. I am sure there are many more good Somalis out there but only need to be discovered, encouraged and recognised. We need more of these courageous and good Samaritans in the leadership. 


Yes, the motto of all Somalis must be “more organ donors please...we are Somalis.” This is because mottos and attitudes like these are among the ones that can save us all from self-destruction and annihilation because only love and compassion can conquer fear and despair.

Muuse Yuusuf

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