Organ donations can save lives
By: Tousif Raza
Organ failure was one of the major reasons that led to a large number of deaths during the covid pandemic. As per data shared in Parliament by the Union Health Ministry, after a dip in 2020 owing to the pandemic, organ donations picked up again in 2021 with 12,387 organs harvested from deceased as well as living donors.
However, the number of deceased donations has remained lower than the number of donations from living persons. Deceased donation of organs is by the kin of those who suffered brain death or cardiac death. Almost 12,387 organs like kidney, liver, heart, lungs, and pancreas among the harvested in 2021, only 1,743 (approx 14%) were from deceased donors.
The numbers harvested in 2021 were close to the highest in the last five years (12,746, in 2019). The numbers are skewed in favour of living donations — organs like kidney and liver donated by living family members.
The numbers harvested in 2021 were close to the highest in the last five years (12,746, in 2019). The numbers are skewed in favour of living donations — organs like kidney and liver donated by living family members. All but two deceased organ donations in 2021 were in 15 states.
The top five were Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Karnataka — accounting for more than 85% of the total. Two organs were harvested from a deceased donor in Goa. One reason for the geographical skew could be that most organ transplant and harvesting centres are concentrated in these geographies. In comparison, the organ donation rate in Spain, the highest in the world, is 49.6 per million population. India has an organ donation rate of about 0.52 per million population.
There is a gap in the number of organs needed and the number of transplants that happen in India. In absolute numbers, India conducts the third highest number of transplants in the world. Of the estimated 1.5-2 lakh persons who need a kidney transplant every year, only around 8,000 get one. And of the 10,000 who need a heart transplant, only 200 get it.
Demand is on the rise because of the increasing prevalence of lifestyle diseases. Besides, organs like heart and lungs can be retrieved only from deceased donors. Without deceased donations, a precious resource is wasted. Nearly 1.5 lakh persons die in road traffic accidents every year in India, many of whom can ideally donate organs.
In 1994, Transplantation of Human Organs Act (THOA) was promulgated by Government of India. o The Transplantation of Human Organs Rules followed in 1995 and were last amended in 2014, increasing the scope of donation and including tissues for transplantation. The act made commercialization of organs a punishable offence and legalized the concept of brain death in India allowing deceased donation by obtaining organs from brain stem dead person. National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization (NOTTO) is a national level organization set up under Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Besides laying down policy guidelines and protocols for various functions, it coordinates all the activities associated with organ donation at national level.
In India a person has to register to be an organ donor and the family has to consent to it after death. Even with a donor card, the family’s consent is sought for organ donation after the death of the individual.
If the family refuses, the organs are not harvested. On the other hand, Spain has an opt-out system where a person is presumed to be a donor unless otherwise specified. Having a medically qualified transplant coordinator helps in organ donation. A transplant coordinator is the patient’s link to the transplant hospital. They also serve as information resources for patients and families after the transplant.
India has smaller number of such coordinators. Good transport networks between cities and states can help boost organ donation. There is need to improve coordination among the Road, Railway, and Aviation Ministries to facilitate the creation of green corridors for faster transportation of organs.
Lack of proper education to the attendants of a brain dead patient, lack of awareness among general public about organ donation, organ donor cards, process of organ donation, add to the superstitions and misconceptions associated with organ donation in our country and make organ donation a tedious task. There is need for more awareness about organ transplant so that people register as donors.
Every year World Organ Donation Day is observed every year on August 13 across the globe. The purpose of observing this day is to spread awareness about the importance of organ donation and to encourage people to do the same. Let’s pledge to donate organs and save lives.
(The author hails from Tangmarg in north Kashmir)