Shyama Rajagopal

Only one in 10 patients are able to get organ transplantation

KOCHI: The Bill introduced by the Union Minister for Health in Parliament to amend the Transplantation of Human Organ Act 1994 is likely to provide an impetus to awareness of organ donation, Ramesh S. Shenoy, general secretary, Society for Organ Retrieval and Transplantation (SORT), has said.

While the number of patients waiting for organ transplantation is more than 40,000, only 4,000 transplantations are done in the country every year, according to estimates by SORT.

In Kerala, nearly 4,000 brain deaths due to accidents alone are reported every year, which means 8,000 kidneys can be harvested and transplanted.

However, this is not happening in the State or anywhere in the country.

In developed countries, organ donation ratio between live donors and cadaver donors is 1:99, whereas in India the ratio is 99.99: 0.1.

While the Bill envisages tightening the loopholes that continue to abet commercial organ transplantation, there is an important clause which not only widens the scope of the people who can make live donations but also makes it part of the duty of the medical team attending the brain dead person to make enquiry about organ donation with the patient’s relatives.

A government move in this regard will provide the necessary drive to create awareness, believes Philip Augustine, managing director, Lakeshore Hospital and Research Centre.

Big achievement

There have been very few instances of cadaver organ donation through SORT since it was formed in 2000. The first transplantation occurred in 2004 and the second one in 2007. But this year was a big achievement for SORT as organs were retrieved from five cadavers, said Dr. Shenoy.

The first of these organ donations happened in the early hours of the New Year day of 2009 when a 35-year-old pregnant woman from Ettumannur with an eight-month old foetus suffered brain death. The baby was, however, saved.

The relatives consented to donate her organs, though they were totally shaken by the tragedy. The liver and one kidney were transplanted on to patients at Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS). The other kidney was transplanted at the Lakeshore Hospital.

The second donation happened in March, when a 16-year old boy from Changanassery suffered brain death at AIMS. The boy had expressed his wish to utilise his body after death in the best possible manner.

The other three cadaver donations came from young people in the 20-25 age group. Kidneys, liver and eyes were retrieved and transplanted. SORT has a registry of needy recipients for kidney (about 200) and liver (3) and patients are selected on the basis of priority from the list.

Major drawback

A major drawback in all the organ transplantations done here was that the heart could not be utilised. SORT does not have a registry for patients requiring heart transplants. The infrastructure for heart transplant in Kochi is still nascent, said Dr. Shenoy.

In the whole of State only six specialty hospitals, all in Kochi, have licence for organ retrieval and transplantation. Several other hospitals are members of SORT, but do not have licence. Private hospitals continue to be wary of being part of this treatment for fear of being bracketed for organ trade, said Dr. Shenoy.