Life After Life – About Organ Donation

This blog is about a subject that we believe should get more attention among Indians. We are talking about organ donation or the practice of retrieving a human organ from a living or dead person and transplanting it into a recipient, an ailing person who will not survive unless he or she receives an organ replacement.

We begin with a quote from Barack Obama, former President of the United States of America. 

Quote

The decision to become a donor can save up to eight lives and enhance many more—men, women, and children who depend on the generosity and sacrifice of others. I encourage individuals of all ages and backgrounds to consider this unique opportunity to help those in need and to discuss this choice with friends and family.” – Barack Obama, former President, United States of America.

Unquote

As per statistics available, in 2019,  Spain had the highest organ donor rate in the world at 46.91 per million people, followed by the US (36.88 per million), Croatia (34.63 per million), Portugal (33.8 per million), and France (33.25 per million. For India,with a population of 1.3 billion people, the statistic stands at 0. 86 persons as organ donors per million population (PMP). This is an incredibly small and insignificant number compared to the statistics around the world. 

Aren’t these statistics sufficient for us to feel that we should start a conversation to spread awareness about organ donation?

In recent years, the Central and state governments have taken several steps to ensure transparency and avoid misuse by unscrupulous elements. The have created green corridors for quick transport of organs from the donor to the recipient. This includes air lifting of organs or patients and creating green corridors at both ends to ensure  speedy transport by road. 

 Indians have risen to the Government’s initiatives and today Indians are the second largest donors in the world terms of numbers.

In recent months, we have read several newspaper reports on how organ donation has given a new life to several patients with critical illnesses. 

Every day thousands of lives can be saved by the noble gesture of organ donation. For organ recipients, a transplant often means a second chance at life. Vital organs such as the heart, pancreas, liver, kidneys and lungs can be transplanted to those whose organs are failing. It allows many recipients to return to a normal lifestyle. For others, a cornea or tissue transplant means the ability to see again or the recovery of mobility and freedom from pain.

There is no restriction of age , caste, religion or community, current or previous medical condition for pledging organs for donation.

There are stringent rules and regulations that cover organ donation and receipt of donated organs. This is governed by a central registry.

Once a person decides to be an organ donor, there are many ways to accomplish this. Ask your doctor or visit the nearest hospital and a social worker will guide you.

You can also visit the website of Organ India at organindia.org and fill the form online, indicating your willingness to donate your organ or tissue. Once you have made the pledge, be sure to talk to your family as merely having a donor card is not sufficient. As per laws in India, written consent of the family is a must before any procedure of transplant. Talk to as many people as you can about this as this will be one the most crucial decisions of your life.

There are a lot of misconceptions 

about organ donation. Let’s give you a reality check.

The following questions that often come to our mind are answered by  Dr. Sonia Lal Gupta who is a neurologist specializing in Headache Medicine and Strokes. She is practicing at Metro Multispeciality Hospital, Noida and MP Heart Clinic, New Delhi. 

1. Myth: Organ and tissue donation mutilates the body.

Fact: Donated organs are removed surgically, which doesn’t disfigure the body. The donor’s body is clothed for cremation, so there are no visible signs of donation. After eye donation, an artificial eye is inserted, the eyelids are closed, and no one can notice any difference.  There are no visible marks on the eye, skin or body after these are removed for transplant.

2. Myth: Religion bars organ donation.

Fact: Most religious beliefs permit organ donation or leave it to the individual’s discretion. If you’re unsure, clarify this from your religious leader.

3. Myth:The donor’s family is charged for donating organs.

Fact: A donor’s family is never charged for donating organs. If a doctor or hospital tells you that there is a cost, please take it it up with the authorities.

4. Myth: Anyone can be an organ donor.

Fact: Surgeons harvest organs from patients with strong and still beating hearts. Surgeons don’t want vital organs from donors who are completely dead and whose hearts have stopped beating. A few medical conditions automatically disqualify one from donating organs. The decision to use an organ is based on strict medical criteria. It may turn out that certain organs are not suitable for transplantation, while other organs are fine. At the time of death, only medical professionals,can determine whether a prospect’s organs are suitable for transplantation. Some diseases rule out donation including active cancer, active HIV or active infection. The doctor will assess this based on your medical condition.

5. Myth: I’m under age 18. I’m too young to make this decision.

Fact: That’s true, in a legal sense. But your parents can authorize this decision. You can express to your parents your wish to donate, and your parents can give their consent knowing that it’s what you wanted. Children, too, are in need of organ transplants, and they usually need organs smaller than those an adult can provide. There’s no defined cut-off age. Organs have been successfully transplanted from donors in their 70s and 80s. At the time of death, only the doctors can decide whether the organs are suitable for transplantation.

6. Myth:Only the heart, liver and kidneys can be donated.

Fact: Other organs such as the pancreas, lungs, small and large intestines, and the stomach can also be transplanted. Moreover, tissues such as skin, bone, heart valves and tendons can be donated too.

7. Myth: If the ICU doctors know I’m an organ donor, they won’t work hard to save me.

Fact: If you are admitted in a hospital – sick or injured, the priority is to save your life. Organ donation can only be considered after brain death occurs. Moreover, the medical team treating you is distinctly different from the transplant team.

8. Myth:What if I recover from brain death?

Fact: This doesn’t happen. The standards to determine if a person is brain dead are very strict and people who have agreed to donate their organs are given additional tests to confirm that they are truly dead.

9. Myth: When awaiting transplant, the rich and famous get priority.

Fact: What really counts is the severity of illness, time spent waiting, blood type and other important medical information. The organ allocation system is blind to wealth or social status. Factors such as race, gender, age, income and celebrity status are never considered when determining organ recipients.

10. Myth:Having a donor card is all that’s required to become a donor. I don’t need to tell my family that I want to be a donor because it is written in my will.

Fact: While a signed donor card and a driver’s license with an ‘organ donor’ designation are legal documents, organ donation is discussed with family members prior to the donation. To ensure that your family understands and respects your wishes, it’s important that you tell them about your decision to donate life. By the time your will is read, it will be too late to recover your organs. Informing your family now is the best way to ensure your wishes are carried out.

Remember, your family has the last say in whether you are a donor or not. So, it is very important to let your family know what your wishes are so they can be carried out. 

Telling your family that you would like to be an organ donor might not be easy. It may seem that talking of death is morbid, but it’s really about giving life. Some families might not believe in it or don’t take the time to think about it. No donations are taken until the next of kin or immediate family signs a release or consent form. They can choose certain organs or all that can be used. For instance, they can donate only your eyes if they desire.   

This podcast is meant only to create awareness about the need to think about what we have said. Maybe we are at an age which makes these choices difficult, but the aim of our podcast is to share information, make people aware and spread the information.

 Religious faith makes you believe that there is life after life. 

Organ donation is one way to make that a reality.

Thank you for reading.

by Mr V Krishnan, resident of Covai S3 Retirement Community

Reblog – originally published as a podcast at CovaiVani

Leave a Comment