World Organ Donation Day is observed on August 13 every year to emphasize the need of donating vital organs for saving the lives of millions of patients, across the world.
Organ donation is the process of surgically removing an organ or tissue from one person (the organ donor) and placing it or transplanting into another person (the recipient). Transplantation is necessary because the recipient’s organ has failed or has been damaged by disease or injury, and who is in dire need of it. The process of retrieving or procuring the organ or tissue is known as harvesting.
This noble cause can help millions of patients suffering from end-stage organ failure and give them a new lease of life. There are mainly two types of organ donations – live donation and cadaver donation.
Live donation is done by taking organs from a living, healthy person. Organs that can be transplanted from a healthy person are liver and kidney. This is because donor can survive on one kidney while liver is an incredible organ that grows back to its original size. Generally such donation is within the family depending on the matching of parameters of the donor and the recipient.
Cadaver donation is done by taking organs from a person declared ‘brain dead.’ The main purpose of organ donation day is to educate people about cadaver donation, as organs in a brain-dead person can be kept alive with the help of technology, for next few hours till they get transplanted. 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 consent in the matter.
Who can be an organ donor?
In case of cadaver donation, organs from any person declared ‘brain dead’ can be donated irrespective of the age, gender, race, religion after getting due consent from the family.
In India, citizens under the age of 18 can donate organs under live donation, only after receiving a nod from the parents or guardians. Otherwise any healthy adult can donate organs or pledge to be an organ donor.
However, people with severe health conditions like heart problems, kidney disease, and liver ailments including hepatitis, HIV, cancer and the likes cannot donate organs.
Which organs can be donated?
Organs and tissues that can be harvested are Kidney, Liver, Heart, Lungs, Pancreas, Intestine, Blood stem cells, Blood and platelets, Tissues, Cornea, Bones, Skin, Veins, Tendons, Ligaments, Heart valves, and Cartilage.
While most organs must be used between 6 and 72 hours after removal from a donor’s body, tissues such as cornea, skin, heart valves, bone, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage can be preserved and stored for later use.
Due to a shortage of donor hundreds of people waiting for a transplant are dying. There exists a wide gap between the patients waiting for organs and the donors. Some of the reasons for this disparity include;
- 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.
Organ donation can save lives but due to misconceptions and lack of knowledge among people, the percentage of organ donation is not as high as it should be.
Myth: There is not much need for organ donation in India
Fact: Not true. In India 300 patients die every day due to organ failure. According to statistics, out of 9.5 million deaths every year in our country, at least one lakh are potential donors. Conversion of brain-dead patients into donors is still moving at a slower pace in India and signing up for organ donation posthumously can save many lives.
Myth: Older people cannot donate organs
Fact: There is no age limit to donate organs. Doctors go by strict medical standards while assessing the health condition of the donor and will not consider the age.
Myth: If I am an organ donor, the doctor may not focus on saving my life
Fact: This is a popular misconception among those worried about signing a donor registry. Doctors always focus on saving your life not the potential recipient of the organs. Many a time, the doctor treating you may not have anything to do with organ transplantation.
Myth: Donor’s family should pay for organ retrieval
Fact: In case of a brain-dead patient the donor’s family do not have to pay for the organ retrieval.
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 anyone and everyone can be of use even in death. It is time to pledge organs.
The process of Organ Donation includes;
- 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 India, The Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994 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.