Our Bodies Belong to God: Organ Transplants, Islam, and the Struggle for Human Dignity in Egypt

Our Bodies Belong to God: Organ Transplants, Islam, and the Struggle for Human Dignity in Egypt

Our Bodies Belong to God: Organ Transplants, Islam, and the Struggle for Human Dignity in Egypt

Our Bodies Belong to God: Organ Transplants, Islam, and the Struggle for Human Dignity in Egypt

Synopsis

Why has Egypt, a pioneer of organ transplantation, been reluctant to pass a national organ transplant law for more than three decades? This book analyzes the national debate over organ transplantation in Egypt as it has unfolded during a time of major social and political transformation--including mounting dissent against a brutal regime, the privatization of health care, advances in science, the growing gap between rich and poor, and the Islamic revival. Sherine Hamdy recasts bioethics as a necessarily political project as she traces the moral positions of patients in need of new tissues and organs, doctors uncertain about whether transplantation is a "good" medical or religious practice, and Islamic scholars. Her richly narrated study delves into topics including current definitions of brain death, the authority of Islamic fatwas, reports about the mismanagement of toxic waste predisposing the poor to organ failure, the Egyptian black market in organs, and more. Incorporating insights from a range of disciplines, Our Bodies Belong to God sheds new light on contemporary Islamic thought, while challenging the presumed divide between religion and science, and between ethics and politics.

Excerpt

I remember clearly the events of one hot day in the spring of 2003, when I was researching life stories of poor rural dialysis patients in a hospital ward in Tanta, a city in the northern Nile Delta. All of the patients there were diagnosed as having end-stage kidney failure and were in critical need of new kidneys. But hardly any of them considered the acquisition of a new kidney to be a viable solution. I was talking to the physician in charge of the ward about this conundrum when I suddenly felt uneasy. I lost my ground and blacked out. the nurses immediately put me on one of the hospital dialysis beds, took my blood pressure, and, when I regained awareness, ordered me to continue lying there. I was soon wheeled to the end of the room and wedged between two of the patients whose life stories I had been recording. I lay on a hospital bed in a cold sweat, intermittently panicking about the fact that many patients had described their first symptoms of renal failure as dizziness. I thought to myself in sad amusement that I had unintentionally slipped into a frightening “native’s point of view.” Watching the patients’ blood move up in their tubes under the flickering fluorescent light, I tried to fight off a feeling of impending doom, the fear that I would be stuck there in that bed, with them, forever. Madame Sabah, a motherly patient in her fifties, insisted that I drink her mango juice to raise my blood sugar. ʿAli, another dialysis patient, pointed at the small fuzzy television screen in the room, showing American troops in Iraq, and prayed aloud for my dizziness to leave me and to fall upon the invaders instead.

There were moments such as these when my fate seemed completely intertwined with the fates of poor patients whose lives were in reality radically different from mine. But while patients were often receptive and grateful for the company and conversation, I grew accustomed to hostility . . .

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