Sunday March 26th, 2023
Download SceneNow app

Cairo Hospital Staff Accused of Stealing Deceased Patient's Eyeballs

The corpse was found by his family with "bloody eye-sockets."

Staff Writer

Loopholes. Do we love them or hate them? Sometimes they make for interesting stories, creating a plot twist that you never saw coming; they’re also great when you get away with something that you know is wrong, because you were able to rig the system.

On the other end of the spectrum, however, are the people who get screwed over by the loophole. When you’re the subject of the story, it really sucks—and that’s what happened to Mohamed Abdel Tawab, a 40-year-old Egyptian man who went in for a cardiac operation, only to be found deceased in the in Qasr Al-Ainy hospital’s morgue, with bloody sockets where his eyes should have been, according to Al-Ahram.

Corneal transplant is a procedural operation which involves removing the cornea from the eye - the transparent layer above your iris, or the surface of your eye - for reasons such as poor or cloudy vision that comes with disease or old age.

Abdel Tawab was claimed to have passed away due to a significant drop in his blood pressure which occurred as he was awaiting his heart surgery in Qasr Al-Ainy’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU). However, when his family found the corneas missing from his head, they reported to the police department; their evidence was a video they took of the scene at the morgue.

In 1962, Egypt passed a law that permits hospitals to remove corneas from the departed without their families’ consent. The law has been amended over the years, until 2003 when the law was finally revised to clarify that corneas can be taken as long as the deceased is not deformed in the process, and that consent is not required from relatives of the deceased.

Al-Ahram reported that Abdel Tawab’s family believe that staff at the hospital weren't attentive to Abdel Tawab’s health, as a means to obtain his corneas. Ahmed Abdel Tawab, the deceased’s brother, expressed his doubts of the cornea being removed post his death.

The video went viral and has caused growing restlessness among Egyptians who had not paid much attention to the obscure law, according to Al-Ahram. Member of Parliament Shereen Farrag told Al-Ahram about the loopholes that exist in the law, contradicting with Articles 60 and 61 in 2014 which state that families must give permission to the hospital before an organ is exchanged. Farrag also confirmed that the hospital did not just take Abdel Tawab’s corneas, but his “entire eyes.”

While post mortem organ transplants are common in Egypt, saving millions of lives, Egypt still struggles with establishing ethical boundaries for organ trafficking.

Main image from Wikimedia Commons.