The first-ever cadaver maintenance programme in the country, which was launched at the Stanley Hospital here in November 2009, is expected to tap its potential optimally with the filling up of the vacancy of anesthetist three days ago.

“Only five cases of cadaver maintenance have been handled in the past six months. The five-bed unit is fully equipped with modern medical equipment and offers completely free services for ‘brain dead' patients,” said R. Surendran, head, Institute of Surgical Gastroenterology and Liver Transplantation, Stanley Medical College.

For the past three months, only one case for cadaver maintenance has been reported.

Some of the reasons are the reduced support of neurophysicians in the city in recommending ‘brain dead' patients to the hospital and vacancy of some posts such as anesthetist.

The programme has been launched at a cost of Rs.6 crore. Using it to its optimum potential would benefit the weaker sections, said Dr. Surendran. The maintenance is done free of cost even if the family decides not to donate the organs, he said.

Dr. Surendran, who also led the team that performed the first successful liver transplant surgery at the hospital under the Kalaignar Health Insurance Scheme, said the success of the programme had the potential to force organ trading out of business.

An analysis of the inability to use more cadavers for organ transplantation revealed that the key reason was the reluctance of the patient's relatives to believe ‘brain death.'

“Some medical officers themselves are not aware of what brain death is about,” he said.

Grief counsellors have been appointed to speak to relatives for explaining the concept of cadaver organ donation, but it is a challenging task.

As part of the cadaver maintenance programme, hospitals in and around Chennai were expected to inform the team at Stanley Hospital about brain death cases.

But such information from most hospitals was not forthcoming, said one of the doctors.

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Aloysius Xavier LopezJune 28, 2012