India's poor record in organ donation

Regulations and procedures may have to be made simpler

The World Organ Donation day is meant to create awareness among the people of the need to donate organs to save the lives of others or to improve the quality of lives of people who are handicapped or debilitated in many ways. In India, it is also a reminder of the country’s poor record in organ dona-tions. It is estimated that donors in India are only about 0.08 per million population while in some other countries, it is 20-30 people per million. There are even countries where organ donation is the rule unless the donor has forbidden it before death. Medical science has advanced so much that most human organs can be transplanted into other bodies. While some organs can be donated when the donor is alive, others can be donated only after a brain death or a natural death.

One organ donor can save the lives of up to eight people and improve the lives of 50 people. In India over five lakh people die every year because of the non-availability of organs to replace defective ones. There are lakhs of people on the waiting list for kidney and liver transplants. The number of transplants done in the country every year in the case of major organs is less than a thousand, and in some cases can be counted on fingers. Only 16 lung transplants were done last year. There are inhibiting cultural factors, superstitions and wrong ideas that donations by living persons will adversely affect health in later life. No religion bans organ donation and it is actually an altruistic act. If transplant operations were done in very few hospitals in the country in the past, now there are many hospitals and trained doctors who can do them.

In the recent past, organ donations have received greater attention because of reports about how organs are taken safely from one part of the country to another in a short time. But there is the need to create greater awareness and the practice should become common. The government expects to increase the number of donations to one per million population by 2020. Even that is a very modest target against the requirement. Both government and non-government organisations should actively campaign to increase the numbers. Rules and regulations and procedures may have to be made simpler. It is because of the shortage of organs that unethical practices involving sale of organs are frequently resorted to. Every day can be made an organ donation day if the right policies, attitudes and facilities are there.

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