Organ donors: which parts are off-limits?

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Traumatic memories could soon be erased in the blink of an eye.

Cape Town - If you are a black South African and considering donating your organs you are more likely to donate your kidneys than any other part of your body, a UCT study has revealed.

Published in the February issue of SA Medical Journal, the study found that while most South Africans (black and white) felt positive about organ donation, black Africans were still reluctant to donate parts like their heart, liver and corneas. It found that whites on the other hand, were more willing to donate their own organs and not those of their relatives.

Titled “Attitudes to organ donation among some urban South African populations remain unchanged”, the study explored perceptions concerning organ donation and transplantation over 20 years (1993 – 2013).

The study follows a 1993 survey, which looked at whether South Africans were willing to donate their organs should they die.

Of more than 1 000 people surveyed in urban centres across the country last year about 90 percent expressed willingness to donate.

 

About 41 percent of blacks responded that “it is not up to me to decide” or “it is not my body” or it was not their responsibility to give consent for their relatives to donate. This reasoning increased to 60 percent among white respondents.

Religious and cultural beliefs were cited as the reason to keep the body intact after death among blacks with about 22 percent of respondents in the latest study feeling uneasy about the perceived damage.

Professor Delawir Kahn, lead researcher and head of surgery at UCT, wrote that while it was not clear enough to attribute the shift and greater willingness to donate kidneys among blacks to any specific factor, it could be put down to knowing someone who had received a kidney transplant or to adverts on kidney donation.

He said a decrease in willingness to donate heart, liver and corneas among blacks was consistent with cultural beliefs that emphasised the role of ancestors after death, “including the notion that the body should remain intact for spiritual reasons”.

Kahn said there was a need for more publicity campaigns to emphasise the importance of organ donation to address the critical shortage of organs. - Cape Argus

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