Giving a stranger the gift of life

| | in Oped

It’s heartening that myths surrounding organ donation are fading away as people are now coming forward to donate. However, a lot still needs to be done

Have you registered for organ donation? If not, you must know that a positive gesture from your side can give a new lease of life to someone in need. Summing up the feelings of lakhs of patients waiting for a transplant, Nozer H Canteenwalla, a kidney recipient from Mumbai said. “You have your whole life infront of you to lead it the way you want to. You can be good, bad, happy or sad, you can make money and do whatever you want to till you are alive; the choice is all yours, but after your death, don't let your family bury you or burn you before your organs are donated to those who need it. Save lives so that someone can lead a long and happy life.”

Recently, Pawan, a resident of Delhi, donated one of his kidneys to save the life of his friend Dheeraj who was undergoing regular dialysis treatment due to a kidney failure. Eighteen-year old brain-dead Deepak Dhaketa, a native from Indore, Madhya Pradesh, following his death in a road accident, gave life to four patients. While his kidneys were transplanted into two patients, his heart and liver were harvested in a 48-year old woman and a 55-year old man in Delhi. Similarly, the kidneys of 66-year old brain-dead Vijay Shah gave a new lease of life to Surat-based Jaya Tulsi Jasani (45) and Ahmedabad-based Ramesh M Patel (56) just a few weeks ago.

In fact, it is heartening that in a country where organ donation was once mired with myth, superstitions and taboos, not to mention misinformation, people are gradually coming forward to give new life. Almost anyone can donate organs and tissues — there is no age limit on the donation of some organs and tissues.

Of course, it does take a lot of courage for the grieving families to let the doctors harvest the organs of their loved ones. That too, at a time when they are just coming in terms with the irreparable loss of their family member. But by donating organs, they will set an example for others to follow. However, more needs to be done.

Consider this: In India, less than 5,000 kidney transplants are carried out annually against an estimated requirement of over 175,000.  Similarly, only 1,000 liver transplants are performed every year where over 50,000 perish due to end-stage liver disease. The annual requirement of hearts is estimated at around 50,000 and lungs about 20,000.

In contrast, just around only one per cent to two per cent of Indians donate their organs in comparison to nearly 80 per cent donors in the West. In India, about 90 per cent of the people, in the waiting list, die without getting an organ. Awareness, better organ coordination, innovation and simplifying the policies are a key to boost organ donation.

For instance, the Delhi Government has recently made it mandatory for all hospitals to ascertain and certify brain-death cases. The move also aims to check incidences where patients with irreversible brain function are kept in hospitals causing anxiety and financial burden on their kin. Once a patient is certified brain-dead, multiple organs including heart, kidney, lung, liver, pancreas and tissues can be harvested and transplanted to the needy patient.

The Government has set up a National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation, a national level body, to function as apex centre for coordination and networking for procurement and distribution of organs and tissues and their registry. So far, 100 super-specialty hospitals from across the country have enrolled with it, giving details of their organ transplantation activities.

But while many developed countries have made it mandatory for the drivers to give option about the organ donation, the Indian Transport Ministry, for the reasons best known to it, is yet to act on the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s proposal to earmark a designated space on driver's licences indicating the driver's “will” to donate organs. It is strongly felt that this move can help fill the gap between the demand and supply given high number of road accidents in India.

The World Health Organisation in its first ever Global Status Report on Road Safety in 2010 revealed that India registered over 1,30,000 roadside deaths annually. So, while this source has remained untapped, India is all set to witness an ever-increasing demand for transplants, caused in part by less healthy lifestyles. For example, adult-onset diabetes with associated kidney failure and hypertension.

So, if you have made a pledge to donate organs then always carry the organ donor card with you. It is important for your family to be aware of your wishes, as without their consent, your organs and tissues cannot be donated. Become a reason for someone's smile.

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