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Controversy over cornea removal

The alleged removal of a man’s cornea without permission has stirred controversy in Egypt and raised ethical questions regarding the removal of organs from a dead body without consent.

The furor began after a graphic video of deceased 40-year old Mohamed Abdel- Tawab having his corneas removed by hospital staff went viral.

It’s alleged they were taken without the permission of the man or his family, under auspices of a 1962 law that allows public and university hospitals with cornea banks to take the surface of the cornea from the deceased without prior consent.

However, according to local news site AhramOnline, the family has alleged that the hospital deliberately killed Abdel- Tawab in order to take his eyes.

The head of Qasr El-Ainy hospital Dr Fathy Khodeir disputed this assertion and told media there was nothing illegal with the procedure, citing the 1962 law.

“The hospital did not take the cornea of the deceased, it only took the superficial surface of the cornea, which does not constitute a mutilation of the deceased,” Khodeir said.

The law has been amended several times, most notably in 2003, when it was decided that public hospitals could take the surface of the cornea without deforming the deceased.

Despite that amendment, Egyptian MP Shareen Farrag has argued the law is unconstitutional as it supposedly contradicts articles 60 and 61 of the 2014 Constitution, which state that consent must be obtained from the family before organ removal or transplant can take place.

She has also alleged that the hospital removed the entire eye of the deceased, rather than just the cornea, and requested hospital officials be questioned before parliament.

Qasr El-Ainy Hospital houses the only operating cornea bank in the country, and thousands of patients are currently on the waiting list to receive transplants.

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