Opinions within the Muslim community
There are a range of opinions present within the Muslim community as to the permissibility of organ donation after death. While there is evidence that a majority of Islamic scholars and Muslim health care professionals are proponents for it (with varying conditions needing to be satisfied), there is unfortunately relatively little clear evidence on how an “opt-out” system would influence or change these views.
The reality is that the Muslim scholarly, Muslim healthcare and general Muslim community are not homogenous. Therefore, we are likely to encounter a range of opinions for a variety of reasons. For example, there are those who are in favour of organ donation after death, but are concerned by the lack of express consent inherent in an opt-out system. Also, we cannot overstate the desire to expedite burial as a perceived practical reason to opt out of organ donation. Finally, it is likely that personal and non-religious cultural factors will be as influential as religious motivation when it comes to this sensitive issue for the bereaved.
BIMA has previously and is also currently running various seminars and workshops to address and facilitate this discussion. There is certainly an appetite within the Muslim community to engage with this process. This will require sustained engagement in order to achieve whatever outcome the community feels is correct.
The Government should be commended for taking proactive steps to increase the number of available organs available to those who need it most. We are acutely aware that ethnic minorities tend to be under-represented when it comes to donation but are over-represented when it comes to needing organ donation. However, there is concern that legislating an opt-out system without education and engagement may have adverse and unintended consequences. We would recommend taking the following measures to help mitigate for these potentialities.
1. To help launch an education and awareness campaign for the Muslim community in their places of congregation (e.g. mosques) and in their native languages (e.g. Bengali, Somali, etc.).
2. To allow flexibility for those who object to their relatives organs being donated on religious grounds.
3. To engage with Muslim healthcare professionals and Islamic scholars to help address caveats/concerns around organ donation.
4. To ensure a holistic and sensitive approach to this matter and prevent vilification of any particular community.
The Medical community:
1. To organise and participate in more “outreach” sessions and public health campaigns on organ donation, particularly within ethnic minority communities where there may be a shortage of organ donors.
2. To highlight the possibility of organ donation to patients / family members at an early stage so that they can make an informed choice.
3. To respect the views of those who still refuse to donate their / their relatives’ organs.
The Muslim community:
1. For the range of Islamic scholars, Islamic organisations and Islamic medical associations to provide clear guidance on this to the Muslim public.
2. To invite healthcare professionals to their mosques / places of congregation to speak to them about organ donation and its benefits as well as address any concerns.
3. To make an informed and documented choice at an early stage to prevent difficulties later on.