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Beating delays in organ donation

Serena Josephine M.
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Experts suggest that 2009 circular, which permits local police to conduct inquest, be enforced

A family willingly donates the organs of a loved one, who is brain dead due to injuries sustained in a road accident, to give a new lease of life to many others waiting for vital organs. The least they can get in return is a hassle-free legal procedure and the first step in this could be a prompt inquest, according to experts.

But waiting for police officers from the place of accident — for instance another district — often leads to delay in such cases, said doctors and experts involved in promoting deceased donor transplantation. They said a circular issued by the Director General of Police in 2009 allowing local jurisdiction police to conduct the inquest in accident cases is seldom followed.

In several cases, people injured in accidents occurring in other districts are brought to the city hospitals for treatment. All accident cases are medico-legal cases and involve several procedures.

The circular states that in cases of death due to accident, the inquest can be conducted by the local jurisdiction police. They need not wait for the arrival of officers from far off places where the cases were registered or the incident occurred.

“This instruction in the circular is not followed. Senior police officers should take steps to see that the instructions are enforced, at least for organ donation cases,” C.E. Karunakaran, trustee of National Network for Organ Sharing (NNOS) said.

Only after the inquest is conducted can the formalities for retrieval of organs begin.

A transplant coordinator said the inquest is usually conducted by an inspector or sub-inspector. “It is an elaborate procedure and our experience with the police varies from case to case. In one case, it took one night for an officer from a city police station to come for an inquest; often, officers from other districts take 5 to 6 hours to arrive. It depends on the officer on duty. If we inform staff at a local police station about a brain death case, they ask us to speak to higher officials. Many are not aware of such a circular,” the coordinator said.

The coordinator said a G.O. clarifying matters should be issued to make things clear. “Inspectors of all local stations should be intimated. Sometimes, we are not able to handover the body to the family as promised and at times, it is delayed by 6 to 7 hours,” the coordinator added.

R. Swaminathan, chairman of NNOS, said the issue is also about respecting the feelings of the donor family. “They have lost a loved one and made a noble gesture of donating the organs. The least that we can do is to return the body as soon as possible,” he said.

Sunil Shroff, managing trustee of MOHAN Foundation, had of a similar view. “The inquest can be slightly fast tracked if the local police handle the inquest and we can make things easy for the family. The donor family needs some special consideration.”

Doctors accept the local police have their daily load of cases but said that the frequency of cadaver donations is comparatively less.

Police officials however said that they had to rule out possibilities of murder. “In some cases, the local police have been asked to conduct the inquest if the family possessed a copy of the FIR. This was acceptable even if the jurisdiction police sent the FIR copy via fax to the local police,” an officer said.

(With inputs from Vivek Narayanan)

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