The Malta Independent 14 April 2024, Sunday
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PN presents private member’s bill amending Malta’s organ donation laws to Speaker

Semira Abbas Shalan Wednesday, 21 February 2024, 12:26 Last update: about 3 months ago

The PN on Wednesday has presented to Speaker Anglu Farrugia a private member's bill proposing a shift to an ‘opt-out’ system for organ donation in the country, which was already endorsed by Health Minister Jo Etienne Abela.

In a press conference in the Parliament building, the ‘architect’ behind the bill PN MP Ivan Bartolo, PN Whip Robert Cutajar as well as representative of the Transplant Support Group Carmelo Fenech spoke about the bill which has a direct human impact.

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Cutajar first appealed to government to send a positive message of maturity, and not delay the first reading of this private member’s bill, but rather present it immediately in favour of common good. Cutajar said that there are eight PN private member’s bills which have been shelved.

Bartolo said that there must be action and pressure for change, rather than only raising awareness.

He said that there are many of those who have dedicated their lives to others, such as medical professionals, or have made a gesture to save someone’s life, a manifestation of generous solidarity in the country.

Bartolo named two persons who have now passed, who have spurred him to work on the bill. Marie Therese Pisani’s organs benefited 10 people after she passed, and Bartolo commended her parents for taking this decision in favour of social justice and the common good in a difficult moment.

“You have to be in it, to understand,” Bartolo said, he himself having donated a kidney to a stranger. He named his late friend, Simon Galea, who was on the waiting list for a kidney, and had been calling Bartolo to ask when the private member’s bill would be presented.

He acknowledged that the discussions will be mixed, some will agree, some will not. “I hope that Malta will also join the countries who have an ‘opt-out’ system, and if a person does not wish to do this after their death, they can fill out and sign a form, taking the decision in their life,” Bartolo said.

Bartolo said that further research is welcome, where he personally researched and will be meeting with various foreign and local professionals in University, beyond only medical professionals.

“The development we have seen in transplants have made it possible for someone to donate their organs during their life, or after their passing. This is not only an act of social representation but an expression of universal unity,” Bartolo said.

He said he was honoured to have had a meeting with Minister Jo Etienne Abela yesterday, who said he would second it. Bartolo appealed that government pushes this on the agenda, as such laws can save and change many lives.

“If this bill passes, this small island will be truly one which shows solidarity, one I would be proud of,” Bartolo said. He said that in legal terms, Lawyer Jason Azzopardi helped him from start to finish.

Secretary of the Transplant Support Group Carmelo Fenech said that he was there as a representative, as well as a patient who has kidney failure. Fenech has to go to the Renal Unit at Mater Dei to receive dialysis every three days.

“We are here to raise awareness and knowledge on organ donators, whom we call the good Samaritans, who leave organs for others to live a normal life,” Fenech said, explaining that even cornea transplants can now be done.

Fenech said that he is a doctor to himself, and when one receives a kidney transplant, they can live life more independently.

“We are ready to appeal, and welcome whoever can give us their support to continue living life and moving forward. The Transplant Support Group works 24/7, from Monday to Sunday, to truly facilitate these people’s lives,” Fenech said.

He also said that as a patient of kidney failure, government has to spend €24,000 a year for each person for their apparatus and maintenance, which are free-of-charge for patients.

Fenech thanked the dedicated nurses in the unit who know everyone individually and their different needs, providing also moral support.

Asked by the media on the ethical aspect of the bill, Bartolo said that the ethical aspect was checked, adding that there is no obligation for a person to donate their organs, and the last say in the matter is always going to be that of the individual’s family, to prevent abuses and ethical wrongs.

On a question about something similar for blood donation, Bartolo said that blood donation is something to also think about.

Cutajar also appealed to government to present on its agenda the first readings of the several PN private member’s bills, specifically the organ donation and the food waste bills, as well as the bill proposing that environment is added as a fundamental right in Malta’s constitution.

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