Why does organ donation still remain abysmally low in India? Zonal Transplant Coordination Center (ZTCC) predicts, “90% of the people in the waiting list (for organ donation) might die without getting an organ”. On 22nd July, the government of India constituted a committee that comprise of members from numerous ministries, with the purpose of coordinating undertakings aimed at promoting organ donations in the country.
“The government”,as stated by Health Minister JP Nadda, “ -in close cooperation with states, has taken a number of steps to increase donation of cadaver organs to bridge the gap between demand and supply and to save the lives of a large number of people suffering from end stage organ failure”. This is an extremely welcome move and it is hoped that necessary action will be taken up with the recent decision made by the government.
The 1994 Transplantation of Human Organ Act set guidelines for organ donation, making it legal, but in case of living organ donation, immediate family members of the recipient are allowed to donate their organs and distant relatives or friends are allowed only in special circumstances without any unauthorized payment made to the donor. After the passing away of an individual, even if they had pledged to donate their organs while alive, the final consent required for the donation has to come from the family approves. This makes a tricky situation and it is not necessary that families always honour the wish of the deceased. Another issue at hand is cadaveric donation, or organ and tissue donation from brain dead people. The rates for the same remain extremely low and the decision for this form of donation lies entirely in the hands of the close family members of the person in question.
Many myths and beliefs around organ donations
There are many myths and beliefs surrounding organ donation and its alleged negative consequences from a religious point of view. This is an important issue in India, where religion plays a big role in society. However, organisations are working towards changing this negative view by trying to highlight the fact that most religious groups, including Christianity, support organ and tissue donation and transplantation, as long as it does not impede the life or hasten the death of the donor.
Many doctors and organisations advocate for commercial transplant options, as illegal trade of organs has sprung up in a few cities of the country, with New Delhi leading. A “red market” has come up where a kidney is sold for as less as 340 euros.
National Organs and Tissues Transplant Organisation (NOTTO), a national organisation that had been set up by Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and Government of India in Delhi, aims to promote retrieval of organs and tissues. Addressing the issue of illegal trade of kidneys, and whether it was noted by the government, the Health Minister gave a written reply in Lok Sabha. “Yes. The huge gap between the availability and requirement of organs contributes to the illegal trade in human organs,” stated Health Minister JP Nadda.
ZTCC (Zonal Transplant Coordination Center) in Maharashtra, Western India released a statement highlighting the rise of cadaver donations in the state, demanding more efforts from the government in outlining the process of cadaver organ donation. With conscious action from the government, , increasing awareness within the society and efforts from private organisations, there is hope that the situation of organ donation will change in India.
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