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Organ Donation: Still a taboo in India
Every year, hundreds of people die while waiting for an organ transplant, because of shortage of organs. The gap between the number of organs donated and the number of people waiting for a transplant is getting larger.

In India, there is a huge scope for organ donation, as around 1.4 lakh people die due to road traffic accidents, and the victims are diagnosed brain dead. All this is happening only because of lack of awareness in people over this issue of organ donation.

Statistics of organ donation in India

Ninety per cent of people in waiting list for organ donation die without getting an organ. Almost 1.5 lakh people in India need a kidney, out of which only 3000 of them are fortunate to receive one. Annual liver transplant requirement is 25,000, but only 800 cases are treated.

What is organ donation?

Organ donation means taking healthy organs and tissues from one person for transplantation into another. Experts say that the organs from one donor can save or help as many as 50 people. Organ donation is fast developing into a major treatment protocol. However it is yet to grow in India.

Types of Organ Donation

There are two types of organ donation, 'live organ donation' and 'deceased organ donation'. Live organ donation means, donating an organ, while you are alive. There are strict regulations associated with live organ donation. Kidney and liver (a part of it) can be donated in this type of organ donation. Only the close relatives of the patient can donate their organs.

Deceased organ donation means, donating organs after the death of the person. There are two criteria for deceased organ donation. In the first case, a person who is 'brain dead' (means, his heart is functioning, but his brain is dead) can donate his organs like heart, pancreas, eyes, lungs etc. This is also known as 'cadaver organ donation'. 

The second case is known as 'cardiac death' where the heart stops functioning, in such case one can only donate tissues like cornea, skin, heart valves etc, and one cannot donate his organ.

Myths associated with organ donation

  • Lack of awareness about organ donation in India - Government is not taking proper steps to spread awareness in people about organ donation. Messages on organ donation should be there in hospitals. Negative propaganda on organ donation should be stopped.

  • Organ donation is against religion - Organ donation is consistent with the beliefs of most major religions.

  • Lack of trust on hospitals - A person feels that if he has donated his organs, then the hospital staff won't work hard to save his life. But its not true.

  • Little knowledge about brain death - People don't know about brain death, because the brain dead people heart beat is normal. And the relatives feel that he might become normal. But, it is not true, a person who is brain dead can never become normal. Often brain death is confused with coma.

  • The organ donors family will be charged, if, a deceased donates his organs- The organ donor's family is never charged for donating. The family is charged only for the cost of all final efforts to save the persons life.

Legal aspects of organ donation in India

The Transplantation of Human Organ Act (THO) was passed in India in 1994 to streamline organ donation and transplantation activities. The main provisions for THO act are:

  • For Live donations? the relatives of the recipient are allowed to donate, which includes mother, father, brothers, sisters, son, daughter, and spouse. They have to provide the proof of their relationship by genetic testing or by showing any legal document.

  • If the donor is not the first relative of the recipient then a special permission is required from the government appointed authorization committee.

  • Brain death and its declaration- to declare a patient as brain dead, two certifications are to be done at an interval of 6 hours, and this should be done by a doctor nominated by the appropriate authority of the government. (Source- NCBI) 

Rules for organ donors

For live donation:

  • A person can donate an organ to a family member at any time.

  • A complete health check along with blood cross matching test are done. This is done to check, whether the organ that you are donating will suit the recipient or not. 

For cadaver donation:

  • In order to be a organ donor you have to register yourself with an NGO like MOHAN foundation, which will help you in getting an organ donation card.

  • Informing the family, about the desire for donating the organ is very important, because after the death of the deceased, the close family has the right to deny the permission to the doctor to harvest his organs.

  • After the person is declared brain dead, his organs will be tested for viability.

  • The organs that can be offered are eyes, lungs, kidneys, liver, skin and in some cases intestines.

Rules for recipient of the organs

  • If a person requires an organ transplant, than he has to be put on a transplant registry. This will let the hospital know, about the availability of that particular organ for donation.

  • Depending upon which organ transplant is needed, one has to register himself with Zonal Transplant Coordination Center (ZTCC) for cadaveric donations.

  • Every organ available for transplant needs to go through a cross match test, for compatibility. If this test fails, then the doctor has every right to not transplant that organ.

(Pallavi Kumar, Executive Director, MOHAN Foundation, Delhi-NCR region has provided vital inputs for this write up)

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