Upcoming event at GW

The Case of Organ Transplantation in Egypt: Reassessing Bioethics and Contemporary Islamic Thought

Sherine Hamdy, Kutayba Alghanim Assistant Professor of Social Sciences and Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Brown University; author, Our Bodies Belong to God: Bioethics, Islam, and Organ Transplantation

When: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 from 6:00 – 7:30 PM
Where: Lindner Family Commons, Room 602
1957 E Street, NW
Elliott School of International Affairs
George Washington University

Please RSVP here

Our Bodies Belong to God centers on why Egyptians were largely reluctant to accept transplant medicine. In the print news, on state television, radio, film, and in religious sermons, opinions clashed over this life-saving but death-ridden medical practice. Egypt’s organ transplant debate immediately presents a number of puzzles. Why did organ transplantation in particular, as opposed to other biotechnological practices, set off such a heated debate? Why was Egypt the pioneering Arab Muslim country in the field of transplant medicine, and yet the most resistant to passing a law?

If all official religious scholars in Egypt declared that organ transplantation was permissible in Islam, why did patients and family members continue to object out of religious sentiment, echoing the words of Shaykh Sha’rawi, who insisted that we cannot donate that which belongs to God? Why did doctors talk about the body belonging to God as a commonsensical basis from which to question the prudence of kidney transplants, and yet as superstitious and backward when it came to transplanting corneas? If Egyptian doctors prided themselves on having worked with cornea grafts as early as the 1960s, why were public eye banks barely operational by the late 1990s? Even more puzzling, people in Egypt agreed that buying and selling organs was in principle wrong, while the majority of transplants occurred in just this way. Why was the commodification of organs perceived as a national outrage and at the same time as inevitable and banal?

Sponsored by the Institute for Middle East Studies and America Abroad Media

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