10 facts about organ donation in India

According to Organ India, we need around 2,00,000 cornea donations every year. Yet, only about 50,000 corneas are donated annually.

There is around half million people in India who need organ transplant operation but can’t undergo the procedure due to lack of organ donors.

Several surveys have found that we Indians are yet to educate ourselves about organ donation; we find the myths more fascinating than actual facts and figures.

Do you know in India, every year, nearly 5,00,000 people die due to lack of organ donation? India’s organ donation rate is one of the lowest in the world – 0.26 per million compared to 26 per million in the US and 36 per million in Spain.

According to Organ India, we need around 2,00,000 cornea donations every year. Yet, only about 50,000 corneas are donated annually.

Similarly, annually, there are nearly 1,50,000 patients who need kidney transplants. But we manage to get only around 5,000 kidney donors every year.

Here are 10 facts you should know about organ donation in India:

1. You are never too young or too old for organ donation. From a newborn to a 75-year-old, anyone can donate his/her organ(s).

2. As many as eight lives can be saved by you.

Post your death you can donate not only your liver, lungs, heart, kidneys, pancreas and small intestine, but also your skin, corneas, bone tissue including tendons and cartilage, heart valves and blood vessels.

3. Even if you have a medical history, you can still be an organ donor.

It may be that some organs are unhealthy for donation and transplant but other organs and tissues may be used for saving lives. For example, most cancer patients are eligible for donating corneas.

4. It’s a myth that if you are an organ donor and get admitted to a hospital for treatment, doctors will not save your life.

No transplant team will approach you until all live-saving efforts by doctors have failed and you have been declared brain dead. Even then, they can’t take any step unless your family consents to the donation even if you have a donor card.

5. There are some organs which can be donated while you are alive.

The most common one being kidneys. Apart from this, partial liver, a lobe of a lung, pancreas or intestine can be donated while you are alive.

Living donors can also donate fluids or tissues to be regenerated like blood, bone marrow, and parts of the liver.

6. In case of living donors, it is true that there are some complications associated with all major surgeries, such as infection, blood clots and pain.

There are also some long-term complications that might arise depending on the health of the donor, organ and procedure underwent.

For example, living kidney donors might suffer from hypertension and even kidney failure in future. Liver donors may face renal failure, gastric issues and intra-abdominal bleeding in the long-term, while pancreas donor might suffer from diabetes.

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7. It’s another myth that organs are sold. They are “donated” to the most need patients who need immediate transplant.

8. Your body will not be mutilated while doctors retrieve your organs.

It is a single incision procedure post which the body will be cleaned, stitched and handed over to your family with all due respect.

Apart from the stitch marks, no one will be able to tell if an organ is missing as the body remains intact.

9. No organs remain healthy till the end of our lives. Hence there are a few guidelines related to age and organs that can be donated.

For example, corneas can be donated till you are 100 years old, kidneys, liver and skin till you are 70, heart and lungs till you are 50, and, heart valves till you are 40.

10. Pledging to donate your organs by registering as an organ donor and carrying a donor card helps medical teams get an idea of who the potential donors are and where are they located. Besides, it also servers as a partial legal document.

Pic credit: National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization

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