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Organ Donation: The need to overcome misconception, misinformation

In his recent Mann Ki Baat address to the nation, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted the importance of organ donation. He commended the families of Ababat Kaur and Snehalata Chowdhary, who donated their organs after their deaths and spoke about Sukhbir Singh Sandhu and Supreet Kaur, who named their daughter Ababat in honour of the connotation of service to others. Sadly, Ababat passed away 39 days after her birth, but her parents donated her organs, saving the lives of others. The PM appealed to people to opt for organ donation and announced that his government is working on a uniform policy to make the process easy and encourage people to adopt the life-saving exercise.

Shortage of Organs

Despite the potential for organ donations, India is facing a critical shortage of organs. According to the data from the Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, there is a vast gap between the number of patients requiring transplants and the available organs. Around 1.8 lakh people in India suffer from renal failure every year, but only around 6,000 renal transplants are done annually. Around 2 lakh patients die of liver failure or liver cancer annually, and 25-30 thousand liver transplants are needed every year, but only around 1,500 are being performed. Similarly, only 10 to 15 heart transplants are performed every year in India, whereas around 50,000 people suffer from heart failures annually. In the case of the cornea, only about 25,000 transplants are done every year against a requirement of 1 lakh.

The Situation of Organ Donation in India

In India, living donors or deceased donors can make organ donations. The Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994 (THOA) provides a standard legal framework relating to organ donation and transplantation to prevent illegal commercial dealings in human organs. According to Organ donation – “attitude and awareness among undergraduates and postgraduates of North-East India”, published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, India lags far behind many countries in Asia and the rest of the world, with an organ donation rate of only 0.34 Per Million Population (PMP). This rate is significantly lower than in countries like Spain, where the organ donation rate is 36 PMP. The family consent system is used in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands, where people sign up as organ donors, and their family’s consent is required. In contrast, countries like Singapore, Belgium, and Spain use the more aggressive presumed consent system. This system allows organ donation by default unless the donor has explicitly opposed it during his or her lifetime and does not require family consent.

The Need for Action

The shortage of organs is a significant challenge in India, and the situation demands immediate action. The government needs to increase awareness about organ donation, promote deceased organ donation, and address institutional roadblocks. The adoption of a presumed consent system, as suggested by the doctors of All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, could help address this issue. The Indian society as a whole also needs to come forward and play an active role in promoting organ donation. By doing so, so many lives can be saved and the quality of life can be improved.

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