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Posted at: Jul 14, 2019, 7:11 AM; last updated: Jul 14, 2019, 7:11 AM (IST)

At PGI, demand high, donation low

Lack of awareness and myths surrounding organ donation are major hurdles in the way

Sandeep Rana in Chandigarh

One organ donor can save up to eight lives. Still, thousands die for want of organs. At the heart of the huge gap are lack of awareness and the myths surrounding organ donation. At the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, one often comes across families of brain dead patients battling their emotions as they are approached by a team of Regional Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (ROTTO) for organ donation. A large number of these patients are road accident victims.

“It is a very difficult job to convince families already shattered due to the tragedy. And our job is to encourage them for donating organs of the person who is leaving them forever. We tell them that their loved one won’t come back, but can live on through others if his organs are donated,” shares a transplant coordinator.

The success rate, he says, is 50 per cent. “Those who don’t agree cite myths, the others social pressure. For many, it is hard to accept that a brain dead person is not going to be with them as they see the pulse working,” he adds.

Dr Ashish Sharma, head, renal transplant surgery, says the demand for organs is high, but the rate of donation is low. Experts say that finding a right match is a task. At times, organs have to be airlifted within a very short period of time.

At the PGI, organs of 443 patients have been donated over the last five years. Prof AK Gupta, Medical Superintendent-cum-HoD, Hospital Administration, says the institute’s organ donation and transplantation programme is a success story in itself with donations being consistent for the past four to five years. However, when talking about the overall scenario, he does agree that the rate of conversion of potential donors into actual donors is quite low. “The key reason behind this is lack of awareness and prevalent myths and misconceptions. So our focus is two-pronged: building an enabling environment through awareness campaigns and counselling and strengthening infrastructure and training of medical fraternity on the clinical front.”

He doesn’t blame the families. “The donor family is in extreme shock at that juncture. So, the prime job of a transplant coordinator is that of grief counselling. The issue of organ donation is flagged off only when there is acceptance in the family. The efforts and time involved vary from family to family depending upon their emotional state and the various factors affecting their decision making. And even as we are engaged in convincing families to donate, we know it’s a tough call and respect whatever the family decides,” Prof Gupta adds.

The joy of giving, and receiving

Sanjay Gandhi lost his 21-year-old son Parth in a road accident in March 2013. After he was declared brain dead, the family was educated on organ donation by the doctors and motivated to help someone live. “We agreed and his heart and liver were transported to Delhi and his two kidneys and eyes were transplanted in the PGI only.” He says body donation brought them immense happiness and the family is glad that their son could save someone’s life even in death. He feels educating people can help increase the number of organ donations in India. “Earlier, even blood donation was not much prevalent, but is common now,” he says.

Recipient of a heart, Jagraon native Mansirat Singh says he got a new life. “I feel no difference in my health before and after the transplant. I think more and more people should come forward to donate organs as it is going to save life of others.”

The gap

As per the available data, about five lakh people die in India for want of organs every year. About 1.50 lakh people await a kidney transplant, but only 5,000 are able to get one. Still, less than one thousand transplants are done in the country each year. Likewise, just 1,000 livers are available against the required 50,000. There are only 15 hearts for donation while there is a huge demand for 50,000 every year. As many as one lakh people need corneas while only 45,000 are available.

At the PGI, between 2015 and June 30, 2019, 443 patients benefitted from 188 cadaver donations. Besides, 91 live kidney transplants and 24 cadaveric kidney transplants have been done during the period. However, there is a huge shortage of organs and there is a long waiting list. For kidneys and corneas, 1,600 and 2,545 respectively are in the queue. All this despite the huge number of road fatalities being reported in India points our huge loss. More than 1.50 lakh people are killed each year in road accidents in the country. That’s about 400 fatalities a day.

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