Deus in Machina: Religion, Technology, and the Things in Between

By Jeremy Stolow | Go to book overview

Does Submission to God’s Will Preclude
Biotechnological Intervention?
Lessons from Muslim Dialysis Patients
in Contemporary Egypt

Sherine F. Hamdy

In a long hospital corridor in Tanta, Egypt, a middle-aged physician, the attending nephrologist in the dialysis ward, shook his head in exasperation. He had just been counseling Ali, a young man stricken with kidney failure who commuted from his home village via public transportation to receive life-supporting dialysis treatment three times a week. Dr. Sami attempted to explain to the patient that his only hope to return to a “normal life” would be via a kidney transplant. But the patient had refused, saying simply, “The body belongs to God. It belongs to no one else to give away, and it is not for me to take.” Dr. Sami let out a long breath and said to me: “It is very difficult, you know, with these patients—the religious fanatical types. They are fatalistic, saying God knows when they will die before they are even born. So they don’t accept the idea [of transplantation].”

I spent two years in Egypt researching the heated debate about organ transplantation among patients, physicians, and religious scholars. Egypt— more so than any other Muslim or Arab country—has been home to a lively national debate among legislators, physicians, religious scholars, and journalists around the ethics of organ transplantation. It is not uncommon

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