“Kuwaiti citizen announces the sale of his kidney” read the hand-written sign posted on a busy thoroughfare in the capital, which also noted the sellers blood type – O – and phone number.
In an unprecedented attempt to make money to pay back debts, Abu Mohamed placed a hand-written advertisement on the main road between the districts of Rakei and Ardiya., the Kuwaiti newspapers Assiyasah and al-Qabas reported Monday.
His reasons were purely financial, Mohamed told Al Arabiya, adding that he prefered to avoid the media limelight.
"I do not want to drag the name of Kuwait in this," he said. "I would rather keep silent and stay away from the media."
The innovative ad campaign, however, stirred controversy in both the legal and religious communities in the conservative monarchy, where about 100 kidney transplants are performed each year.
Kuwaiti law bans organ trade and only allows free donation, which is regulated by the Ministry of Health, said Dr. Yusuf al-Nesf, the ministry's official spokesman.
"The ministry has an organ transplant department," he told Al Arabiya. "Usually donated organs come from the patient's relatives, from dead people who expressed their wish to donate their organs after death, and volunteers."
Nesf stressed that the ministry does not accept any financial transaction in the transplant process and that there are several procedures that both the donor and the patient have to follow and they all have to be through the ministry.
"Many tests have to be undertaken in order to make sure the organ to be transplanted is suitable for the patient. Usually organ transplants are more successful when done within members of the same family."
Nesf noted that some organ transplants are done outside of the approved institutions but that the ministry could not do anything about itt.
Islamic law permitts organ transplants in cases of emergency provided there is no money exchanged, said Dr. Saad al-Anzi, professor of Islamic law.
"Human beings cannot be treated as commodities that are bought and sold," he told Al Arabiya. "The law criminalizes this type of trade."
Anzi said he doubted whether Abu Mohamed was serious about selling his kidney and suggested that perhaps he wanted to raise public awareness of the shortage of organ donors.
Last year Dutch television broadcaster BNN provoked international outrage when it aired a live TV game show pitting rival kidney patients against one another in pursuit of a donor organ. The show turned out to be a hoax aimed at drawing attention to the problem.