UAE: Marriage ends after husband refuses liver donation to wife

Efforts are underway to raise awareness about the significance of organ donation in educational institutions, according to a prominent doctor.

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In an unusual turn of events, a couple in the UAE ended their marriage due to the husband's refusal to donate an organ to his wife, who needed a liver transplant. This revelation came during the UAE Organ Donation and Transplantation Congress 2024.

Dr. Luis Campos, the liver transplant and hepatobiliary director at the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, shared this story as an example of the negative mindset prevalent in some UAE residents regarding organ transplants. He narrated the incident involving a couple who had legally registered their marriage but were not living together when the wife faced complete liver failure. Despite the wife's plea for the husband to undergo testing to determine if he could be a liver donor, he backed out, citing his father's objection to organ donation. Consequently, the wife chose to divorce him.

Later, the wife's cousin volunteered for testing and turned out to be a match. She donated a portion of her liver, and the patient successfully recovered, leading a happy and healthy life.

Dr. Luis emphasized the need for a change in mentality among UAE residents regarding organ transplants. Despite ongoing awareness programs, many individuals remain hesitant. He suggested that changing this mindset might take time, possibly spanning a generation.

One of the challenges lies in convincing families, as those approaching them may not share the same religion or race. Dr. Luis drew parallels with successful awareness campaigns, such as recycling programs in the United States, where educating children in schools had a positive impact on families.

In the UAE, similar efforts are being made, with volunteers visiting schools and colleges to spread awareness about the importance of organ donation.

During the congress, Dr. Ali Abdulkarim Al Obaidli, Chairman of the National Committee for Organ Transplantation, emphasized patients' right to receive an organ if needed and called for health insurance to support organ donation and transplantation in alignment with United Nations sustainable development goals.

The conference also highlighted the achievements of Hayat, the National Programme for Donation and Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissue, which has gained international recognition for its outstanding performance, making it the world's best and fastest-growing program in organ donation. The UAE achieved a remarkable 417% growth in the number of donors after death per million population over the past five years.

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