India runs short of organ donors for over two lakh patients waiting for organ transplants every year, say doctors of Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals here.

Addressing a Press conference, hospital managing director Jaideep Gupta said: “India currently has a deceased donation rate of 0.05 to 0.08 per million people.” India lags far behind the US, where the cadaver donation rate has reached 25 per million people in 2010, according to statistics from the Council of Europe. The major problem is lack of awareness. Cadaver donation is not a familiar concept among the Indian public. Myths and misconceptions exist at large. Cadaver donations take place only after patients are declared brain dead. Under such circumstances, the organs are able to remain in good quality if well maintained.

“Brain death is different from coma,” explained transplant surgeon Vijya Rajkumari. Coma patients are unconscious, while death is irreversible if they are declared brain dead though their breathing, heartbeat and blood pressure can be sustained with life support.

Ravi Khera, husband of donor Sangeeta Khera, recalled how he decided to donate his wife’s organs. The hospital provided counselling for him and took examinations to confirm brain death before her kidney, liver and heart valves were donated. “It was for a good cause,” he said.

Even so, the decision to make cadaver donation is painstaking. Under Indian laws, the family has the final say in organ donations. “It [cadaver donation] was resented by my family, but I went ahead with it because I wanted Venya to live even after she was no more,” said Kanupriya Raman, mother of a four-year-old donor, Venya Raman, who was initially too distressed over her daughter’s death to agree to the donation. Venya lives on by saving other patients with her kidney, liver, cornea and heart valve.

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