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Muslim families: Donating organs and asking for post mortems
  1. ASRAR RASHID, Specialist Paediatric Registrar
  1. Paediatric Intensive Care Unit
  2. Birmingham Children's Hospital, UK
  3. drasrar{at}lineone.net

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    Editor,—I thank Gatrad and Sheikh for their commentary of important Islamic ethical concepts.1 It is has been my experience that religious and cultural factors are both important when addressing medical issues affecting Muslim families at every level.

    Government campaigns encouraging organ donation have not increased organ donation in Muslim communities in the UK. A British collaborative effort led to the issuing of a fatwa (proclamations by an Islamic committee) that allowed Muslims to donate organs and carry donor cards.2 However, evidence suggests that Muslims may be unaware of Islamic rulings on the organ donation.3 Muslims that are unsure of the Islamic viewpoint must therefore make judgements in the context of their cultural upbringing. Muslim link workers sensitive and knowledgeable to Islamic rites concerning organ donation can be invaluable4 in this regard. Doctors should also be encouraged to suggest to grieving Muslim families the possibility of organ donation.

    The request for a post mortem examination in a Pakistani child is a difficult task. Family members may dispute the need for a post mortem examination for a number of reasons. Firstly, Islam does not allow them.5 Secondly, a post mortem will delay burial and Muslims are keen to bury the child as soon as possible. Thirdly, because of the belief in predestination—that is, “it is Allah's will”; families feel there is no need for post mortem examination. Fourthly, families are annoyed with the fact that the child's body is going to be “interfered with”:Muslims avoid the embalming or cremation of bodies, dead bodies are treated with great respect.6

    A medical approach, sensitive to both cultural and religious factors is vital to a complete and fulfilling interaction between the family and the physician.

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