Monday, June 18, 2012

Joy of Giving Card 33 - Sign up for Organ Donation

When the Joy of Giving card 33 prompted us to donate our organs, my first instinct was to go to a hospital and pick up an Organ Donation card.

When I did enquire at one of the leading hospitals in Pune, to my utter shock and dismay I was told that there is no such thing as a card that you need to fill out.  The "Medical Social Worker" at the hospital explained that donating eyes and skin were most common and easily executed. She seemed to be a bit confused about the donation of vital organs and kept repeating that the same can only be done if the patient was declared "brain dead."

So my first reaction was to come home and Google. This is what I found:

1. Organ Donation is in a very dismal state in India. Thousands of lives are lost annually due to lack of organs from cadavers.

2. Tamil Nadu tops the organ donor stats in India with a total of 1464 organs donated from Oct 2008 - May 2012. That is a meagre 36 donations per year! And even with this they top the list!!!

3. The law on Organ Donation was formulated in 1994 with the Transplantation of Human Organ Act (THOA).

According to this law two types of donations are permitted:

a) Living related donors: Only immediate blood relations (brother, sister, parents & children) can donate as per the THOA. Living donor can donate only few organs, one kidney (as one kidney is capable of maintaining the body functions), a portion of pancreas (as half of the pancreas is adequate for sustaining pancreatic functions) and part of the liver (as the few segments that are donated will regenerate after a period of time) can be donated.

b) Cadaver Organ donor: Can donate all organs after brain death.

4. Cadaver donations are accepted after a team of four doctors declares a patient "brain dead" twice in a span of six hours. Brain death is the irreversible and permanent cessation of all brain functions. Brain can no longer send messages to the body to perform vital functions like breathing, sensation, obeying commands etc. Such persons are kept on artificial support (ventilation) to maintain oxygenation of organs so that the organs are in healthy condition until they are removed. Most cases of brain death are the end result of head injuries, brain tumours patients from Intensive care units. Organs of such patients can be transplanted in organ failure patients to provide them a new lease of life.

Thus it is important for the patient who has desired to donate his/her organs be kept on life support system to ensure oxygen supply is not cut off and the organs can still be used. 

5. What can you donate?
Cornea, skin, heart, liver, pancreas, kidneys, intestine, bone and bone marrow.

6. The biggest criteria to be able to donate your organs is that your near and dear ones, family or immediate relatives should not raise an objection to your wish. If they do, the "wish" of the donor even if it is in writing will be overlooked. I found that quite preposterous and sad. If I do have an Organ Donor card I need to first convince my family and friends about it!

So strangely in our country, first of all people don't donate organs easily and when they want to, if their family feels otherwise, the organ donation can be set aside!

There seems to be a deep rooted misunderstanding as far as the whole concept goes and I searched more to find out why Indians were so wary of donating their organs "after they deaths". The answer came to me in a conversation with my daughter.

Her first reaction to my search for Organ Donor cards was, "Noooo... You can't give away your organs!!!"

After I sat down to explain to her WHY one must donate, she still stuck to her views, "NO Maa. We would like to cremate ALL of you when you die, not with missing organs!"

She is twelve, but I fathom this must be the most common refrain amongst the relatives of those who have passed on and have desired to donate their organs.

None of this has deterred me. I downloaded this form from a website and request all you to do as well. Once the form is filled, it must be carried on your person (just like you would a Driver's License) and hope as hell that when the Good Lord comes calling, and its time for us to go, our siblings, spouse, parents or children will respect and fulfill our wish....

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