The Ministry of Health and Prevention, in cooperation with concerned authorities, shed light on the National Program for Organ Transplantation during a press conference held in Abu Dhabi and chaired by H.E. Dr. Amin Hussein Al Amiri, Assistant Undersecretary for the Ministry’s Public Health Policy and Licensing, in the participation of Dr. Ali Al Obaidili, Chairman of the National Organ Transplant Committee and His Excellency (H.E.) Dr. Faisal Shaheen, Director General of the Saudi Center for Organ Transplantation, The program is pursuant to Federal Law No. 5 of 2016 allowing transplantation of human organs and tissues which was issued by H.H. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE.
During the press conference, authorities explained the regulation on human organ transplant passed to meet the latest international health standards and make the UAE at the forefront of organ transplant procedures at the regional and global levels. The regulation aims at organizing and developing the process of organ donation, and the process of organs conservation, transportation, and transplant. The regulation also aims at preventing organ trafficking, protecting the rights of organ recipients, and preventing the exploitation of both recipients and donors.
The conference was attended by His Excellency (H.E.) Mohamed Al Hameli, Assistant Undersecretary of Department of Health in Abu Dhabi, Dr. Amer Sharif, Director of Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences; and Dr. Marty Manialch of the Donation and Transplant Institute of Spain.
Criminalizing organ trafficking
In his inaugural address, H.E. Dr. Al Amiri said that Federal Decree No. 5 of 2016, which is in line with the latest international health standards, provides a legislative framework for transplantation. H.E. assured that the UAE is fully committed to criminalizing organ trafficking, saying it is a violation of human dignity. This commitment also forms part of the country’s bid to distinguish itself and become a role model at the regional and global levels in this area. He also pointed out that organ transplantation is a sustainable solution that benefits patients suffering from cancer, heart disease, pulmonary failure, hepatic fibrosis, and renal failure, among others.
Violators face punishment
Dr. Al Amiri noted that the UAE passed a law allowing human organ and tissue transplantation from living donors and deceased donors to help treat patients. In the case of living donor, the donors should have categorically expressed that donating their organs is their own free will and it should be confirmed no harm can fall upon the donor.
Additionally, concerning transplantation from a deceased donor, it is not permissible to remove an organ unless the donors’ wish has been conclusively confirmed before death and formally documented either by the public notary or through identity card data. Otherwise, the approval of relatives until the fourth degree according to precise and specific conditions can grant the removal of organs. Moreover, organ removal can be done only following a confirmation of death in line with established criteria in the Ministerial decree No 550 of 2017 issued by H.E The Minister of Health and Prevention.
The Ministry of Health and Prevention shall, with the rest of the local health authorities, monitor the implementation of the legislation to ensure the implementation of its provisions. Any violation of this legislation shall expose the perpetrators to legal accountability in order to guarantee the rights of individuals and protect public health in the community.
Provision protecting UAE citizens from fraudulent centers
H.E. Dr. Al Amiri said the legislation also aim to boost the country’s medical tourism; attract the flow of investments through new specialized international transplantation centers; establish a national organ bank and build a database to register those who wish to donate after death.
He said: "Our role is to spread a culture of trust; highlight the importance of social and educational awareness; promote legal and medical endeavors; and encourage religious guidance to motivate people to donate their organs. This will benefit thousands of patients; reduce the burden on hospitals and the government; and motivate the insurance companies to offer new packages related to organ transplants.
Since the enactment of the law and issuance of the regulation, the country recently recorded 6 deceased donors who donated organs to save the lives of 22 patients. They donated 12 kidneys, 3 livers, 4 lungs, 2 hearts, and a pancreas. The number of organ transplants in the country was 13, out of which nine organs were transferred to Saudi Arabia. We have four licensed health facilities for transplantation - SKMC, Cleveland Clinic Hospital, City Medical Clinic and Al Jalila Specialist Hospital for Children.
Similarly, to ensure the application of best international practices and uniform procedures in the country, the National Transplant Committee hosted a delegation from the Saudi Center for Organ Transplantation and the Donation and Transplantation Institute of Spain (DTI). H.E. said that Spain has the best model in the world when it comes to organ transplants. About 180 specialists from different local medical organizations were successfully trained by the DTI members, while eight experts from the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA), the Ministry of Health and Prevention, Health office of the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, and the UAE University were sent to Barcelona for the intensive training course. In addition to many other training activities that targeted specialists from all health sectors.
Dr. Al Amiri praised all organizations that collaborated with the Ministry of Health and Prevention to prepare the legislation such as the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Awqaf, Health Office of the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Dubai Health Authority (DHA), the Department of Heath of Abu Dhabi, Sharjah Health Authority, the National Transplant Committee, and the Saudi Center for Organ Transplantation. He also commended the hospitals where human organ and tissue transplants have been carried out including Fujairah Hospital; Al Qassimi Hospital; the Saudi German Hospital in Dubai; Sheikh Khalifa Hospital in Ajman; Cleveland Hospital in Abu Dhabi; the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City Hospital in Abu Dhabi; and Mediclinic City Hospital in cooperation with the University of Mohammed Bin Rashid for Medicine and Health Sciences, SEHA, Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services, Donation and Transplantation institute - Spain, Dubai Airports, Abu Dhabi Airport, Al Fujerah International Airport, Dubai Customs, GDRFA Dubai, Dubai Police, Abu Dhabi Police and Sharjah Police.
Chairman of the National Committee for Organ Transplantation: The existence of culture of donation and the building of partnership between professional entities
Dr. Ali Abdulkarim Al-Obaidli, Chairman of the National Committee for Organ Transplantation, emphasized on the importance of a strong culture of donation of organs among citizens and residents in the country and building an integrated partnership between government and private health institutions and charities to achieve its goals, in addition to the integration with the GCC countries through various aspects of cooperation.
Al-Obaidli explained six cases of donation done in the country. He pointed out that the first organ harvest was from a deceased patient at al-Qasimi Hospital, where he saved five lives. The second procedure was from Fujairah hospital, where the donation saved 3 lives. The third case had saved three people and made the first heart transplant possible in the country. The fourth was an organ donation at the Saudi German Hospital from a two-week-old girl, where after her death, her parents donated her kidneys, which reflects the depth of their humanity and desire to save another life.
He added that the donation process that took place at SKMC in Ajman is the fifth of this type and helped save the lives of four people, where one kidney was donated to a 14-year-old boy from Jordan. The transplantation was successfully done at SKMC in Abu Dhabi, while the second kidney was given to a 42-year-old citizen suffering from kidney failure. A liver was also transplanted to rescue a 60-year-old patient at Cleveland Clinic Hospital in Abu Dhabi and it was the first liver transplantation in the country. The lungs were sent to a patient suffering from pulmonary failure in Saudi Arabia. The sixth donation was made at the Fujairah Hospital where three people were saved through the donation of two kidneys at SKMC in Abu Dhabi and Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi, as well as the first lung transplantation, was done in Cleveland Hospital in the UAE.
Contributions of Mohammed bin Rashid University for Medicine and Health Sciences
Dr. Amer Sharif, Director of Mohammed bin Rashid University for Medicine and Health Sciences said: “The Mohammed bin Rashid University for Medicine and Health Sciences is proud to have lent its support to the Ministry of Health and Prevention for the National Program for Organ Transplantation and the implementation of Federal Law No. 5 of 2016.”
He also praised the families of the deceased donors who in spite of their loss had chosen to save the lives of others. He also expressed gratitude to the donors, their families, the government, and local and regional institutions for their cooperation in forming a single working group to ensure effective and efficient transplantation operations. He stressed that giving is one of the most important values of the university and, as such, it is keen to provide quality programs that improve the health system in the UAE and the region.
The university is the first educational institution in the country to run an organ transplantation program, especially kidneys, made possible by its robust partnership with the private sector and cooperation with the Mediclinic City Hospital in Dubai Healthcare City. Dr. Sharif also thanked the Dubai Healthcare City’s senior leaders for their relentless support for the program since its inception.
Brigadier-General Hamad Al-Amimi: The Ministry of Interior has contributed to a national strategy to combat human trafficking
Brigadier-General Hamad Ajlan Al Amimi, Director-General of the Federal Criminal Police at the UAE Ministry of Interior emphasized the keenness of the Ministry to spread the culture of legal awareness in all forms of risks and challenges through its specialized departments and carry out preventive awareness campaigns in coordination with the concerned government agencies. The UAE is one of the first countries in the region to commit to criminalizing organ trafficking because it represents a profanation of human dignity.
He pointed out that the Ministry contributed to the development of a comprehensive national strategy to combat human trafficking and have plans, programs and mechanisms implemented in coordination with the concerned authorities in the UAE, which work in coordination with the concerned parties to provide protection and support the victims of human trafficking and the general community, including the rehabilitation program to assist victims in community integration.
He said: “The Federal Law No. 51 of 2006, amended by Law No. 1 of 2015, says that the removal of organs and trafficking them is a crime and is punishable by law, as it can cause injury to the victim because of the crime, or a disease that cannot be cured or permanently disabled.
We are keen to coordinate with government entities to raise awareness on such acts that fall under criminal liability through illegal sale or transplantation of organs. The Ministry is keen on its strategy to participate in campaigns that promote proper behavior abiding by the law.
Dr. Faisal Shaheen, Director General of the Saudi Center for Organ Transplantation: UAE’s contribution is an addition of quality to the GCC countries
Dr. Faisal Shaheen, Director General of the Saudi Center for Organ Transplantation praised the steps taken by the UAE to activate the organ transplantation program to harvest organs from brain dead patients and stressed the importance of activating the exchange of organs among the GCC countries to provide services to patients with kidney failure in the region, through a registration in the list of patients with kidney failure in the GCC. He also called for the possibility of registration of all GCC citizens, which contributes to the launch of a sustainable program for organ transplantation, which requires cooperation between organ transplantation programs in the region as is the case between European countries and North America. He added that the health facilities and expertise in the UAE are a quality addition to all countries in the region.
Dr. Hassan Al-Khanani pointed to the advanced infrastructure and health facilities in the UAE, which has contributed to the success of organ transplantation. He pointed out the importance of not confusing the coma cases with the brain death cases, as the patients in comatose must continue to receive health care and only brain death cases should be considered for organ donation.
Dr. Marty Manelj: This success marks the UAE's leading position in organ transplantation
Dr. Marti Manilj, President of the Donation and Transplantation Institute - Spain said: “We are proud to cooperate in medical training and organ donation with the UAE and GCC countries. The success attained by the UAE in launching the program of organ transplantation of kidneys, heart, lung, and liver, within a short span of time, is an achievement by all standards, and reflects a strong culture of donation in the community, and the efficiency of medical services that promote the UAE’s leadership in the field of organ transplantation, through the adoption of the best global practices in donation and transplantation of organs.”