Organ donation needs support

The proposal of the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to include a column for organ donation in driving licences is well conceived. It is intended to promote the idea of organ donations and give a fillip to them. An applicant for a licence will have to state whether he is willing to donate his organs, and the licence will mention this. This is to make harvesting of organs easy and hassle-free in case of death. Though the idea may sound odd to many, it is a worldwide practice to incorporate this pledge in driving licences. It could have been thought about earlier. The ministry is also planning to include the option for organ donation in m-parivahan, a citizen-centric app, and is exploring ways to include the pledge in existing licences too. This makes sense in the light of  the very low number of organ donations in the country and the obvious need to increase them.

The medical expertise in organ transplantation has grown and spread in the country but the infrastructure and facilities are far short of requirement. Most of those who need transplants are unable to get organs both from living and deceased persons. According to the 2014 data given by the National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO), a government body, there were only 1,917 kidney transplants while the requirement was for over two lakh kidneys, 803 liver transplants while the requirement was for 80,000 and only a few heart transplants against the need for many thousands. The position is not better in the case of eyes and pancreas too. The organ donation rate is 0.26 per million in India while it is about 26 per million in the US and higher in some other countries. There is also the need for many more hospitals equipped with facilities for organ transplantation.

Many steps have been taken to encourage organ donations, like easier rules and regulations, provision for faster transportation and setting up of regional centres for NOTTO and call centres. Lack of awareness among the people and inhibitions and superstitions are the most serious problems to be addressed. Sustained campaigns are needed to remove these blocks. Because of the high population, the need for organ donations is high, but the potential is also high. Scarcity leads to malpractices which even well thought out regulations are unable to prevent. For many, organ donations mean the difference between life and death. So any step that promotes them is an important public health initiative. The effort should be to make it a popular movement and to bring down the costs.
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