Organ donation: There is urgent need for social awareness in India

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By Dr Amit K Devra

Every year, thousands of lives are lost due to organ failure. Organ donation is the noblest way to living beyond one’s death and gives others a new lease of life.

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When alive, a person can save at least one life by donating his organs, whereas a brain-dead patient can give a gift of life to at least three-eight people.

Organ donation is the process of retrieving or procuring an organ legally with the intention of being able to medically help someone in need. Consent is given either by the donor while they’re still alive or after death by their next of kin.

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India’s statistical data (as of 2018) shows that in response to the demand for 1.75 lakh kidney transplants, only 8,000 transplants were performed.

While of 50,000 people dying of hepatic failure, only 1,000 got liver transplant to survive. These statistics are even more grim in view of organs like heart, pancreas and lungs.

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There are two types of organ donation. In Living Donor Organ Donation, a person can donate his one kidney or part of liver to his loved one without affecting his kidney function, liver function or health.

A living donor’s liver fully regrows within 4 months and will ultimately regain full function.

For kidney donor, recovery period varies but almost every donor regains their 80 per cent of pre-donor kidney function within three months of donation. To increase the acceptance of donor surgery, now a days, harvesting is being done laparoscopically that reduces post-operative hospital stay with lesser pain and better cosmetic outcome.

In Deceased Donor Organ Donation, a person can donate multiple organs and tissues after (brain-stem/cardiac) death. Thus, ensuring that even after his/her demise, a part of him continues to live in another person, giving the recipient also another lease of life.

Unfortunately, India has an abysmally low rates of deceased organ donation as compared to the western world. It is estimated that approximately five lakh people die in India every year that, otherwise, could have been prevented by timely organ transplant.

At least 15 patients die waiting for an organ transplant daily and every 10 minutes, a new name is added to this ever-growing waiting list. Organ donation rates in India sit at 0.01 percent; a miniscule figure in comparison to countries like Croatia which sits at 36.5 percent and Spain at 35.3 percent.

India is struggling with an acute shortage of organs for transplantation and the numbers highlight the crucial gap between the number of organs required and the organs available for transplantation.

Organ donation in India is only just beginning to take off – the reason for the delay being lack of awareness, spiritual belief of life after death and generally negative attitudes towards organ donation.

There are many myths and social taboos associated with organ donation like donated organs may be missing after rebirth. Off late, through the coordinated efforts of various stakeholders, there has been a conscious rise in the rate of organ donation pledges.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, transplant programmes worldwide have been severely impacted with dwindling numbers of transplantations performed and a complete halt in several areas.

Depending on the severity of organ failure, patients may stand a higher risk of dying from their disease-related complications than due to contracting Covid.

It is, therefore, time to reassess our approach to organ donation and transplant by moving forward but with an appropriate caution.

(Dr Amit K Devra is Director, Urology and Kidney Transplant and Coordinator, Kidney Transplant Programme, at Jaypee Hospital in Noida. He can be reached at devra.amit@gmail.com)

–IANS

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