At University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC), the Multi-Organ Transplant Insight, Outreach and Networking Society (MOTIONS) partnered with several other organizations to present an event on December 1, 2017, discussing Islamic perspectives on organ donation and transplant. Research in Canada and beyond has shown that for various reasons, Muslims are less likely to be organ donors or to receive organ transplants compared with other groups. UTSC is a campus where many students and staff are Muslims of South Asian descent, and we were pleased to be invited to speak about the Access to Kidney Transplantation Initiative and research on ethnocultural disparities in transplant access in which our Kidney Health and Education Research Group is involved.
Imam Shaykh Omar Subedar, from Jame Makki Masjid Brampton, led off the event. He remarked that legal rulings (fatwas) by Islamic scholars based in Saudia Arabia can take time to fan out to other parts of the world, such as the Indian subcontinent, which he suggested may partly account for conservatism among South Asian Muslims in incorporating fatwas related to organ donation and transplant. The Shaykh described the “thought process” behind Islamic support for organ donation and transplant, noting that these procedures are permissible for Muslims because they are life-saving and are dictated by genuine need.
The audience also heard from Ms. Fatima Baig, a journalism student now attending college, who received two liver transplants to treat a progressive liver disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis. Mr. Mohan Bissoondial from the Scarborough Gift of Life Association spoke about his experiences as a cornea transplant recipient and about the awareness-raising and community engagement work that Gift of Life carries out in Scarborough, a part of Toronto that has low (15%) organ donor registration rates. Elaine Lai of MOTIONS spoke about the multi-organ transplant research currently being carried out at University Health Network. Lastly, Deanna Toews and Abeera Ali of the Kidney Health and Education Research Group introduced the Explore Transplant Ontario volunteer initiative, which is recruiting individuals to deliver patient education on kidney transplantation in Ontario hospital dialysis and kidney care clinics.