Cadaver organ donation yet to get popular in State, say doctors

Awareness on organ donation seems to be on the rise going by the numbers of people and organisations who have approached the Society for Organ Retrieval and Transplant (SORT). This year alone SORT has so far registered 750 donors, highest in the 12-year existence of the organisation.

A. Vasant Shenoy, joint secretary of SORT, told The Hindu that the number of donors is likely to touch a thousand. This is the first time that the Society has had people approaching them. Awareness campaigns in the media resulted in individuals signing up last year itself when SORT registered 700-odd donors.

“Kochouseph Chittilapilly’s kidney donation had possibly triggered more donors to registers, perhaps,” said Mr. Shenoy. This year too, with the media playing a positive role in Swathi Krishna’s liver transplant and her aunt Rainy Joy’s donation, awareness across the State has gone up like never before, said Mr. Shenoy.

Earlier, SORT had an average registration of about 250 donors a year starting from 2006 onwards.

The first three to four years had very few registrations. It has so far more than 3,500 registered donors and about 300-odd eye donors alone. SORT has also facilitated 12 deceased body donations to medical colleges in last four years. “Though body donation is not SORT’s activity, but those who had approached us were guided to medical colleges,” said Mr. Shenoy

While it is the live organ donations that have caught the media and people’s imagination, people need to realise that it is the deceased or cadaver organ donation that will help the numerous people waiting for organs for transplantation, V. G. Prasad, transplant co-ordinator at Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences told The Hindu.

SORT has so far facilitated only 12 cadaver transplants in the last 12 years — the first one coming up in 2004. Another one came in 2007 and then in 2008. It was in 2009 that four cadaver transplants were done. In 2010, there were two cases while last year there was only one such transplant. So far this year two cadaver transplants have been done.

Amrita Hospital has so far done 14 cadaver transplant surgeries, two of them facilitated by HOPE Charitable Trust, Kozhikode.

Problems related to cadaver donations are huge as the State is yet to have counsellors who can speak to the relatives of people who are brain dead and have no chance of survival.

If the relatives are unaware of organ donation, the task is much more difficult as the hospitals believe that they would be accused of dealing in organ trade. Many relatives refuse to sign up for organ donation thinking it will mutilate the body, said Mr. Shenoy.

However, one of the biggest problems that the government and the medical fraternity need to take up in the State is to get the awareness among doctors and willingness of the hospital to declare a patient brain dead. To harvest organs, government appointed doctors in each district need to certify them as brain dead.

The government has taken an important step in giving the nod for non-transplant hospitals as organ retrieval centres, which means that organs can be retrieved in a hospital with more than 50-beds where a person has been declared brain dead and the relatives are willing to donate organs. When SORT is intimated about it, the transplant centre hospital can retrieve the organs from the non-transplant hospital.

Live donations take a lot more documentation than cadaver donations, said Mr. Prasad.

It is the cadaver donations that will make enough organs available, he said.

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