Some of the leading international, regional and local experts were at hand for the first of its kind Gulf Organ Donor Management Conference at the Sheraton Dammam on Wednesday. Organized by the Saudi Foundation for Promoting Organ Donation, popularly known by its Arabic acronym Eithar, the conference drew an overwhelming response from the medical fraternity, key members of Saudi society and the corporate world. Prominent among those who addressed and took part in the conference’s interesting deliberations were Eithar President Abdul Aziz Alturki; Saudi Center for Organ Transplantation Director General Dr. Faissal A.M. Shaheen; US-based International Association for Organ Donation President and CEO Dr. Fouad Beydoun; Barcelona University’s Dr. Jose Maria Dominguez Roldan; Eithar Vice President Dr. Hanan Al-Ghamdi; Eithar board members Salman Al-Jishi and Abdulla Al-Alami; Eithar Medical Director Dr. Besher Al-Attar and Dr. Shady Anis. Some of the important topics that were under discussion at the conference included ethics and organization of organ donation, the Islamic view of organ transplantation, family consent for organ donation, evaluation and selection of deceased donors and organ retrieval surgeries. It was pointed out that donating organs to sick or injured people is not considered to be an obligation by many in the Arab world and Saudi Arabia in particular. Yet hundreds, if not thousands, of Saudi men, women and children in need of a transplant are forced to endure pain and misery because of the lack of organs. Alturki, a prominent businessman, philanthropist and the driving force behind the campaign to create awareness for organ donation, said Saudi Arabia is far ahead in terms of promoting the life-saving concept of organ donation. “Thanks to our sustained campaign, we are probably much more advanced compared to other countries in the region; I say this because we have had several successful transplant operations; we now have specialized centers; King Khaled Medical City here in the Eastern Province is going to become the main referral center in the entire Kingdom,” he told Arab News. On the role of Islamic scholars in promoting the concept of organ transplantation, Alturki said: “There has been a fatwa since 1930s allowing organ transplantation. Sheikh Al-Sedhan used to urge people to save lives and donate their organs to the needy way back in the 1930s. He would mention it in his speeches in various mosques. Our scholars are of the view that it is some kind of the Islamic concept of ‘sadaqa jariya’ — an act of charity whose benefits continue long after a person passes away.” He said the conference focused specifically on those who are clinically dead. “They are talking about how to manage and preserve their organs for those who are in critical need; how to transport these organs from one hospital to another, how to equip our intensive care units and how to deal with emergencies in such cases,” said Alturki. Dr. Hanan Al-Ghamdi, the conference chairperson, was upbeat about the impact of the conference on the Saudi community of doctors and nurses. “This is one way of taking our efforts to a higher level. We want to learn from others who are ahead of us in this field; we want to share our experience with them; organ transplantation and organ donation are very complex subjects, and they need specialized training,” she said. Al-Ghamdi said it was rather unfortunate that the subject is not part of the curriculum. “It is neither taught in Saudi medical schools nor in any of the specialized institutes; so we invited here at this conference international experts, such as Dr. Jose-Maria Dominguez from Spain; he is a leading expert in organ donation and transplantation,” she said and pointed out that Spain ranked as No. 1 in organ transplantation. “We, at the Saudi Foundation for Promoting Organ Donation, are acting as catalysts and as communicators between various agencies and departments; we hope to have such scientific conferences on a regular basis with a view to educating our doctors and members of society.” According to her, one brain dead person can help save or reduce the misery of nine persons. “Many people die for want of organs such as liver, heart, or lungs; these organs are difficult to be replaced by live donors,” Al-Ghamdi said. Dr. Fouad Beydoun of the International Association for Organ Donation and Alturki of Eithar signed a cooperation agreement at the conference. Dr. Beydoun was all praise for the men and women behind Eithar and their well-intentioned efforts. “This is a new organization, and we want to help them; we don’t want to teach them, rather we want to lead them as they go ahead in establishing the protocols of organ donation and transplantation and promoting the special techniques of convincing people about the need to donate organs,” said Beydoun. “Eithar is doing a good job, I salute them, but they need support from the banks, the government and the corporate houses to take this to the next level.” Beydoun is also the chairman of Detroit Medical Center which runs and owns 23 hospitals in the United States. “When I speak about the subject, I speak from my heart and from my personal experience,” he told Arab News. “Because I have a son who has had a kidney failure.” He appealed to members of the media to play an important part in creating awareness about the issue. “I have conducted a study on Saudi Arabia, and my study reveals that the Kingdom can save up to SR11 billion every year if they find organ donors,” said Dr. Beydoun. “Yes, SR11 billion,” he repeated. According to him, hundreds of people are on dialysis in the Kingdom’s various hospitals. “Dialysis is very expensive, and then there is the cost of equipment and material; it is a very expensive scenario, and if there are enough people to donate organs then the Kingdom can save all that money,” he said. He praised Dr. Faissal Shaheen’s efforts as the director-general of Saudi Center for Organ Transplantation. “He is a good friend and he has accomplished a lot for Saudi Arabia. He is doing a great job, and I wish him the best,” said Dr. Beydoun. Businessman Salman Al-Jishi said corporate houses will lend full help to the campaign. “This is part of our social corporate responsibility and Saudi corporate houses will not be found wanting. We will be more than happy to be part of these programs,” he told Arab News.