Organ, Marrow and Tissue Donation

Dear IFMSA members worldwide

Welcome to the world of donation

Did you ever ask yourself what are some donation related topics you can learn about and work on?

Let me tell you this, the program is not only about pushing people to donate – which is great – but it englobes so many topics that we members can learn about then start working on in our societies.

In the last GA we had the opportunity to discuss some of those topics in our sessions. So here is a brief description of those:

1/ Blood donation for LGBTQI+ people:

It all started in 1983 when the FDA implemented its lifetime ban policy as a response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. During a time of crisis, it was intended to exclude populations considered to be at high risk: men who have sex with men (MSM), women who have sex with MSM, and transgender people who were categorized as MSM. This ban became an entrenched policy, It includes individuals in committed and monogamous relationships, those who always use condoms, and those who have practiced abstinence for decades; the ban applies regardless of HIV-negative test results.

By the end of 2014, the FDA announced it would change its MSM policy to a one-year deferral. Under the FDA’s proposed policy change, MSM who remain celibate for twelve months may be eligible to donate. Many other countries modified their policy during last years. Today some still have a permanent ban, others have a certain time deferral ( 3 months – 6 months – 1 year…) And some have an open donation policy for MSM. Those bans and deferrals constitute a big discrimination for LGBTQ people, and many studies have shown that reducing and removing those deferrals has no significant effect on blood safety, and that it helps saving more lives. This is why many NGOs are advocating for reducing and removing such deferrals , and a good example is a policy document done by AMSA Australia on that.

What we can do as healthcare professionals is to educate people and especially ourselves about it, to raise awareness of the population about it and to advocate in order to bring changes to deferral policies in our countries. This will let MSM people eligible to donate and raise the number of donations and lives to be saved, and will also reduce the discrimination LGBTQI+ people face in their communities .

2/ human trafficking and organ trade

Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal activity in the world, and is considered as modern slavery.

There are 3 elements that define human trafficking:

The ACT: recruitment, transporting, harboring, hiding them from authorities and receiving victims processes.

MEANS: why victims don’t run away or say no? Traffickers use a variety of means to do that as threats, force, abducting or deceiving the victims, abusing power or promise small payments and benefits that will never arrive.

The PURPOSE: exploitation. Take advantage of victims for their own profit.

Organ trafficking is a major type of human trafficking  and is defined as the trafficking or the trade of human organs, tissues or other body parts for the purpose of transplantation.

Organ trafficking is a reality in many parts of the world. The demand for organ transplants, especially kidney transplants, is just so high. As a result, there is a huge scramble to find organs, legitimate or otherwise.

There are so many factors that contribute to organ and human trafficking. Those are separated into Push factors like poverty, lack of opportunities, discrimination, economic imbalance or political instability and pull factors like better life standards and improved social position.

We as healthcare professionals are the first contact persons with those victims, we must be able to properly identify them and deal with them. This is why it is important for us to work on improving knowledge and skills of health professionals on that field. We must also raise awareness against human trafficking, while focusing on potential victims that are from low socio-economical background. Another thing is to encourage legal alternatives for organ trafficking by encouraging organ donation , promoting donation culture and  advocating for policies supporting organ donation in our countries.

Those are two of the many topics related to the program and that have crucial importance in our societies, but unfortunately are not discussed much. This is why we need to step in as health leaders and take the lead to act in such topics.

If you want to start working on donation, or feel you need more knowledge in the field, don’t hesitate to approach me and let us all together take the lead and work on donation

Saad UakkasProgram Coordinator on Organ, Marrow and Tissue Donation

[email protected]

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