Despite the majority opinion of Muslim jurists that organ donation is permitted in Sharia, surveys indicate continuing resistance by lay Muslims, especially to donating organs following death. Pakistan, a country with 165 million Muslims, currently reliant on live donors, is considering steps to establish deceased donor programs which will require public acceptance and support. This article analyzes the results of in-depth interviews with 105 members of the public focusing on opinions and knowledge about juristic rulings regarding kidney donations, donor-family dynamics in deceased donation decisions, and attitudes towards buying kidneys. The objective was to determine the influence if any of cultural and religious values, and norms of traditional family structures and kinships, on decisions to donate.
Study participants view donation of kidneys, particularly from the deceased, through a different lens from that used by jurists and physicians, one that also does not conform to familiar paradigms defining ethical organ donation. A socially modulated understanding of Islam passed down the generations, and longstanding family-centric norms, shape the moral worldview of many rather than academic juristic rulings or non-contextual concepts of autonomy and rights. The results of this study also highlight that medical science may be universal but its application occurs within particularities of cultural and religious values, social constructs of the self and its relationship with others, and different ways in which humans comprehend illness, suffering, and death. These findings are of relevance both to transplant related professionals and bioethicists involved with this field.