By Majd Othman

KUWAIT: Recently, the health ministry announced it will start charging expats KD 20 per unit of blood, which caused a huge controversy not only among expats, who were shocked by the decision, especially since they are major blood donors, but also among citizens, who consider it as discriminatory. Kuwait Times asked Lawyer Thamer Al-Sanea about the legal point of view on this issue, and whether someone can submit a grievance to stop this decision. 

Thamer Al-Sanea

Sanea said this decision is legal and does not violate any legislations according to Kuwaiti law, but at the same time it violates international human rights standards which Kuwait has signed on. He added according to the laws in Kuwait, this issue is considered a ministerial decision. Therefore, it is seen as an independent decision that the government does not interfere in. But Sanea said the ministry of health has no logical or acceptable reason for applying this decision, as it is considered inhumane, adding anyone can file a grievance to try to stop this decision.

Kuwait Times also asked the opinion of citizens regarding this issue — some rejected this decision, but others think this it is the best way to reduce crowding caused by expats. Journalist Dahem Al-Qahtani tweeted his objection. “Regarding the MoH decision to sell blood bags to expats for KD 20, what if the patient undergoes urgent surgery or faces a shortage of blood? What if they cannot pay? Will they let them die?” he asked. “This is a very offensive decision for Kuwait and who suggested and approved it damaged the country’s reputation inside and outside,” he added.

“Raising the fees for dispensing blood bags in this way may make us face a process of selling blood for cash, which is prohibited by the country’s laws and Islamic legislations. Forcing a patient to provide a donor to the blood bank in exchange for blood bags, from a legal point of view, means the country is forcing a barter process, which is also prohibited,” lawyer Riyadh Al-Fadhli tweeted.

“In the name of the great Hippocratic oath, I hope officials at the ministry of health completely cancel blood transfusion fees for patients without any restrictions or conditions. And I call on everyone to donate quickly to the blood bank so that the strategic stock does not run out,” consultant cardiologist Farida Al-Habib tweeted.

On the other hand, a Kuwaiti woman commented on other citizens’ position on this decision. “Why those people who defend expats don’t talk about the price of a blood bag that is sold to citizens at private hospitals for KD 50, and the citizen is forced to buy it due to need,” she tweeted, adding, “expats are the reason private hospitals in Kuwait are asking money for blood bags. They are using all the stock,” she claimed. Another female citizen thinks this decision is due to visitors who come to Kuwait to undergo major surgeries and use most of the blood stock, alleging they don’t pay anything, although they pay thousands in their countries without any questions.

Meanwhile, Kuwait Society for Human Rights (KSHR) issued a statement denouncing the decision, saying the ministry has disregarded international obligations that Kuwait has to uphold with regards to respect for human rights, including health rights, pursuing the highest level of healthcare and seeking to implement the right to healthcare through a non-discriminatory approach. The KSHR statement affirmed its rejection of discriminatory treatment between citizens and resident patients, as these decisions represent violations of health rights stipulated in international conventions and treaties.