The process by which the biological tissue or an organ is retrieved or procured from a dead or a living person, and transplanted into the recipient who is in need of it is known as organ donation. The process of retrieving or procuring the organ or tissue is known as harvesting. Organ donation can save lives but due to misconceptions and lack of knowledge among people in India, the percentage of organ donation is not as high as it should be. Due to a shortage of donor hundreds of people waiting for a transplant are dying. The gap between the people waiting for organs and donors is due to the following reasons:
• In case of deaths occurring due to road accidents, the rule says that the organs can be donated only if the death occurs in the hospital. As a result, kin of a person dying on the spot are unable to donate the organs.
• Another major reason is that many people have not pledged their organs in their lifetime. A pledge is a registered wish to donate organs on one’s demise.
• There is a lack of awareness.
• Religious beliefs also contribute towards myths and misconceptions deterring individuals from pledging their organs.
What is Organ Donation?
It is time for people to become aware of the nuances of organ donation so that every life that comes to an end is able to extend the life span of eight more lives. First we need to understand that there are two kinds of organ donation:
• The donor here is a living person.
• Donation of liver and kidney, and in rare cases, pancreas, intestines and a lobe of the lungs can be made even while alive
• Generally the donation is within the family depending on the matching of parameters of the donor and the recipient.
• As the name suggests, here the organs of the deceased or the brain dead are harvested for the benefit of the donor.
• Brain dead signifies absence of brain stem reflexes and no spontaneous respiration.
• Prior consent of the donor in the form of a registered pledge or the consent of the next of kin is required for the process of harvesting organs.
• Even if the deceased has pledged the organs, the next of kin has to sign a consent in the matter.
Organs that can be donated while alive
• Liver: Livers re-generate themselves. Thus if a portion is donated, the liver will grow back.
• Kidney: Human beings can survive with one kidney. The other spare kidney can be donated.
• Lungs: A single lobe of the lungs can be donated, though unlike liver, lungs do not regenerate.
• Pancreas: A portion of the pancreas can be donated while retaining its functionality.
• Intestines: In rare cases living donors do donate a portion of their intestines.
Individuals suffering from active cancer, active HIV, active infection like sepsis or the individuals using Intravenous (IV) drugs cannot donate their organs. Organs & tissues that can be harvested from a cadaver are:
• Kidney – The functioning lifespan of a transplanted kidney is about nine years.
• Liver – A liver has the ability to regenerate itself. Once harvested it can be split into 2 and thus two individuals will benefit from it.
• Lungs – Single or double-lung transplants can be performed.
• Blood stem cells
• Blood and platelets
• The body
• Tissues: Must be donated within 24 hours of death.
• Cornea: Must be donated within 24 hours of death. It is understood that the corneas of one deceased individual will benefit two blind people.
• Heart valves
While most organs must be used between 6 and 72 hours after removal from a donor’s body, tissues such as corneas, skin, heart valves, bone, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage can be preserved and stored for later use.
Age Restrictions: Anyone with an average health can donate their organs.
The Process of Organ Donation
• Living people in their lifetime can pledge their organs. They will receive Donor Card which acts as a will bequeathing the organs. The individual must carry the card on person and inform next of kin of the wish so that it can be executed.
• In case of brain dead patients, Transplantation of Human Organs Act has been established with the rules to be followed for organ donation. Apart from the procedures laid down in the act, consent from family, coroner and legal authorities is obtained before the harvesting process. While the legal formalities are in process the patient is kept alive on a ventilator.
• In case of an already deceased patient the next of kin can donate the organs.
Organ Donation Day in India
A recent study shows that 5 lakh people and above are dying every year in India only because of organ failure and lack of available organs. The Organ Donation Day is observed by the people, government organisations, NGOs and other organisations interested in bringing awareness about organ donation and its value and thus motivate people to pledge their organs. One donor can save as many as eight lives. Apart from online registry, organs can be pledged and donated at the following organisations:
- Mohan Foundation
- Gift Your Organ Foundation
- Gift A Life
It is time to forget about myths and tales. It is time to believe in science, and help people in distress. It is time to realise that we can be of use even in death. It is time to pledge our organs.
For any queries regarding organ donation, please call – 1800 4193737 (Toll free by MOHAN Foundation)
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