India is the diabetes and coronary heart disease focal point of the world. Experts say that it may soon become the liver disease capital, too. There is a huge demand for organs in the country, but the supply is too limited.
Manipal Hospitals in Bengaluru has spurred a campaign to raise awareness on organ donation, and has roped in celebrities to encourage people to pledge their organs. Here, in this piece of knowledge, Dr Ajay Bakshi, CEO of Manipal Hospitals has shared his views on organ donation.
According to Dr. Bakshi, the most frequently performed organ transplant in India is kidney transplant. Kidney failure is one of the most common health conditions in the country. However, healthy kidneys are somewhat easier to get for transplantation. The next common organ transplant is the liver transplant. Heart transplant is a kind of transplant surgery which is less common in India.
He also acknowledged the fact that India is the diabetes capital of the world. Diabetes is a leading cause of kidney failure. Then, there is alcoholism and hepatitis, both of which often lead to liver failure. Our people are genetically predisposed to heart problems. These diseases have increased so much in the last 20 years that there is a huge demand for organs such as kidney, liver and heart. On the supply side, the awareness as well as donation of organs is low. So, there is a massive shortage of organs.
According to Dr. Bakshi, who was earlier a neurosurgeon and used to handle accident cases almost every other day; In India, accident is the third common cause of death. Organ donation from accident cases itself can increase the size of the supply of organs in a big way. He believes with improved awareness, we can bridge the gap between demand and supply.
Additionally, he shared some insights regarding brain death, which is a legal term. Brain death means that one has suffered a severe brain injury from which he/she will never recover. The most common cause of brain death is severe head injury. Once the brain is dead, the body will be in a vegetative state. However, a person who is brain dead is legally dead. He might survive on a ventilator for a few days or weeks. But he is non-functional as a human being. He is just a body that cannot think, talk or breathe.
There is not even a single case reported in medical history where a brain dead person has come back to life. He will be in an ICU on a ventilator, which costs a few thousand rupees a day. A middle-class family may not be able to afford it for long. The law allows the doctors to disconnect the ventilator and stop life support once the patient has been declared brain dead, after obtaining consent from the family.
According to Dr. Bakshi, the doctors perform some ten tests to determine whether brain death has occurred. The doctors repeat the tests three times over 24 hours and only then conclude whether it is brain death or not. Nevertheless, even if a person who is brain dead has pledged his organs for donation, the final decision rests with the family. They have the power to overrule his/her decision. We at Manipal Hospitals are very sensitive to this. Recently, in one of our hospitals in Tamil Nadu, a patient who had pledged his organs was declared brain dead. We made all the arrangements for the transplant. But at the last minute, the wife said, “I cannot agree to it. I am very sorry.” We respected her wishes, and decided not to go ahead with the transplant.
He also highlighted at the end that one organ donor can save up to seven lives. That is a lot of positive things to leave behind after you are dead. That awareness needs to be built. In western countries, while applying for a driving license, one can pledge his/her organs for donation. This is not strictly applied in India. It is a powerful measure that can help increase the number of organ donors.