Networking is the key to donations

Last Updated 30 October 2010, 18:00 IST

Trained in medicine and surgery in the UK and USA, Dr Samiran Nundy taught at Cambridge, London and Harvard before returning to All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi in 1975, where he rose to head the gastrointestinal surgery department. He quit to set up the country's most successful liver transplant unit at Sir Gangaram hospital in New Delhi, which has performed 567 liver transplants to date. He played a key role in drafting the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994. He also participated in the Parliamentary Standing Committee deliberations on proposed amendments to the  Act. In an interview with Deccan Herald's Kalyan Ray, Dr Nundy highlighted issues in organ donation:

When did organ transplantation take off in India?
Rajiv Gandhi took the initiative in 1988 to have India’s own heart and liver transplant programme. An expert committee identified four problems: absence of expertise, trading in human organ, no law on the status of the brain dead and tremendous cost of the procedure. A second expert committee suggested making trade in human organs a criminal offence and recognising the brain dead as potential donors. Parliament passed the bill and it became law in 1995. The same year,  the first heart transplant took place at AIIMS.

Fifteen years later, organ donations have not picked up?
People don't donate organs. That's why we had to devise alternative methods for liver transplant such as harvesting part of the liver of a living donor, which is inherently risky. The Tamil Nadu government has made it legal for doctors in the ICU of hospitals to approach the relatives of brain dead patients to donate organs. This has facilitated  more than 100 transplants a year there. Andhra Pradesh too has about 80 transplants a year. But  north India lags far behind. In India, only 0.1 per million organ donations take place as against 35 in Spain  and about 25 per million in the UK.

Why are people apprehensive about cadaver transplant?
Mainly ignorance. People think that the body will be mutilated. Moreover, medico-legal impediments to cadaver donations.  Amendments to the law propose to de-link hospitals that certify brain death from those authorised to perform transplants. 

Will a national registry of donors and recipients help?
Yes, harvested organs can be used quickly.

(Published 30 October 2010, 17:46 IST)

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