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19 Apr 2024, Edition - 3202, Friday

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Gift a life: 5 lakh people awaiting organ transplantation in India

Indrani Thakurata


My knowledge of organ donation came from a campaign that became synonymous with Aishwarya Rai, where she pledged to donate her eyes after her death. That was my initiation into organ donation. But those were the early years of the movement in india, where most didn’t even know that organs can be donated. There were fears surrounding donation.

Can’t say that the scenario is completely different now, and the large part of the population is aware of organ donation. We still have people who are completely clueless about organ donation and buy into the myth surrounding the donation. “Organ donation is when a person allows an organ of theirs to be removed, legally, either by consent while the donor is alive or after death with the assent of the next of kin. Donation may be for research, or, more commonly healthy transplantable organs and tissues may be donated to be transplanted into another person,” says Dr P. Raghavan, a Consultant in Uma Clinic.

“The above quote is an exact definition of organ donation. And it is sad that most people are scared to donate for various reasons, be it monetary or religious. Or else, India’s organ donation rate wouldn’t have been one of the lowest in the world,” he adds. Some of the facts will throw you off, just as it would remind you of the current situation in our country. “We haven’t warmed upto the idea of organ donation still. In urban pockets, people still realise the importance of it–while they may not pledge for it, but in rural pockets, they are scared of donation. Education regarding donation and dispelling myths is one way of doing it. This will need social workers to sensitize people of the existing gap in demand and supply, and how they can help,” says Dr. Uma B, a General Practitioner.

You can be a donor if you want to be. But ‘there are two ways a person can be a donor. For livers and kidneys people can donate while they are alive. You can live with one kidney so you can donate one. And part of your liver can be donated because the liver regenerates. You have to be extremely fit in order to donate your organs while you are alive and required tests are done. Also as per Indian law, you can give a donation while you’re alive only to a near relative. There is a provision if you want to donate to someone who is not a near relative, but a committee will sit and decide if that will be allowed. Only in a few cases it is allowed.

After death you can donate your organs if you are declared brain dead. That means while your brain is dead, the other organs are alive because you are on ventilator support,” explains Sunayana Singh, Chief Executive Officer, ORGAN India. Sunayana points out a very important aspect of donation. While you may wish to donate your organs, but your family is not aware of it–then your wishes will not be fulfilled. Your wishes should be in sync with your family, only then you will be able to successfully donate. “ It is not the individual but the family who decides whether to donate the organs after the individual is declared brain dead. Therefore it is very very important that people who want to donate their organs after their deaths must tell their relatives and next of kin about their wishes.”


2lakh cornea donations are needed annually. However only 50,000 corneas are donated, resulting in 3 out of 4 awaiting cornea donation remain visually impaired.

5 lakh people are awaiting organ transplantation in India. By the end of this year, most of them will die due to lack of organs for transplantation. (Data courtesy: Organ India)

Organs required:

21,000 kidneys
5000 hearts
2 lakh liver

Organs available

5000 kidneys
70 hearts
750 liver

Myths and facts surrounding organ donation. These shouldn’t stop you from gifting a life while you are no more
What if i recover from brain death
It is impossible to recover from brain death–it isn’t the same as coma.
If family agrees to organ donation, the doctor will not try to hard to save the patient.
The option to donate organs is only after the person is medically declared dead.
Donors family has to pay more to the hospital
Fact: after the declaration of brain death, the hospital bears all the expenses of artificially supporting the donor.
If I donate , I will be without it in next life
The body is destroyed anyways, so the physical body holds no relevance even if you believe in rebirth.
Religion forbids organ donation
All religion supports organ donation on humanitarian grounds

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