New Delhi: A family of four people was returning from a marriage function in Durgapur, West Bengal when their car was hit by a truck from behind, in an unfortunate incident, all the members of the family died on the spot. The deceased members of the family, Milon Mukherjee, his wife Konika, mother Bhakti and son Soumen, though lost their lives, but their organs could have given a new lease of life to some people. But, unfortunately the organs couldn’t be utilised as the hospitals in West Bengal are not equipped with proper infrastructure and facilities that could carry out the process of organ extraction and transplant.
This is just not about West Bengal, across India many potentially life saving organs go wasted, despite the fact that currently there is a huge dearth of organ donors in our country. As per the statistics, organ donation rate is as low as 0.3 donors per million people. The calculation is alarming – In India about 5 lakh people die awaiting organ transplants due to non-availability of organs. According toDr. Vimal Bhandari, Director of NOTTO or the National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation, the country’s apex organ donation agency, “In our country, every year 1.5 lakh road accidents are reported, out of which 75 per cent are brain dead cases, but, still we are just able to utilize 10 per cent of the organs. If we were not wasting organs then we would have been able to perform 30,000 kidney transplants easily.”
So, What’s The Problem?
In a country with a population of more than a billion people, India has only 301 hospitals across the country that can perform organ transplants, even hospitals with organ Retrieval Centres are also limited.
Meaning, almost all the hospitals in the country are either not equipped to carry the procedure of organ donation or simply retrieve the organs from the deceased person. Out of 301 hospitals, only 250 have registered with NOTTO. As per the calculation – there exists just one hospital for about 43 lakh people that is equipped to conduct an organ transplant.
Highlighting this grim reality, Dr. Suresh K Badhan, Consultant Coordinator, NOTTO added, The biggest challenge right now our medical setup is facing that not all hospitals are equipped for declaring a patient brain death, which is a stipulated condition for organ donation. According to the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994, before a person’s organs are removed, his/her death must be certified by a board of 4 medical experts twice within 6 hours, in our country, not all hospitals even have a neurosurgeon or neurologist, which is one of the doctors in the panel.
Dr. Vimal Bhandari further added, Forget the doctors, the hospitals do not even have proper infrastructure facilities like a ventilator or ICU to even sustain the brain body till the organ transplantation is done.
When asked why there is a shortage of Organ Transplant And Retrieval Centres in India, Dr. Vimal Bhandari explained, “In order to get the Organ Transplant And Retrieval Centres, hospitals need to meet certain standards and guidelines like the hospital should have a minimum of 50 beds along with Operation Theatre and Intensive Care Unit. It should also have a trained staff, doctors who know how to sustain a brain dead person, apart from infrastructure facilities like ventilators and a team of medical experts. If the hospitals meet these guidelines then it needs a certificate from the appropriate authority, only then the hospital can have an Organ Transplant and Retrieval Centres.”
The conclusion is simple – The low rate of Organ Donation in the country is due to various factors, from awareness to infrastructure facilities and education among the doctors and shortage of Organ Transplant And Retrieval Centres.
The Way Ahead
Experts suggest, for starters, every hospital should strive and become part of the organ donation movement. The health experts have also suggested that the government should formulate a policy on organ donation to ensure that all hospitals are equipped with organ transplant or simply the organ Retrieval facilities.
Our aim is to at least have one organ retrieval centre in the district, so THAT organs can be saved from getting waste. Right now, the organs can’t be saved only, forget other logistic factors like transferring the organs to different hospitals. For this we are holding organ donation camps across India, training medical experts – doctors, nurses on how they can join the movement. Recently we have trained 1200 medical experts on the topic, our aim is to increase this number with each passing day as awareness will definitely play a crucial role in bridging the gap of demand –supply in organ donation, said Dr. Vimal Bhandari
Other experts also suggested that government should formulate a policy on organ donation to ensure that more people can become donors on their death unless they join an official register to opt out.
Taking a stalk of the situation in numbers, last year, in India, mere 807 patients were declared brain dead as per statistics revealed by NOTTO. Whereas, there are more than 10 lakh people awaiting for corneal transplant, 50,000 for heart transplant and 20,000 for lung transplant. Bridging this demand and supply gap is cruicial.