It is general consensus that Tamil Nadu's cadaver transplantation programme has received a fillip in the last two years. But much more can be done in terms of retrieval of organs from brain dead patients. Spreading awareness of cadaver organ donation is being recommended as a key intervention to scale up.
A recent online poll conducted by MOHAN Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation, working to promote organ donation awareness, 89 per cent of the people who participated said that they were willing to donate their organs after death. However, only 29 per cent of these people knew about an organ donor card.
The online survey had over 2,200 participants mostly in the 20 to 40 age group. The male to female distribution was 60:40. The poll also revealed that 67 per cent of the respondents had heard of or had some knowledge of brain death. A donor card is the size of a credit card that one can carry in the wallet and is an expression of a desire to donate organs. It is not a legally binding document, and the holder is required to inform his kith and kin of his wish to donate his organs. Ultimately, organs cannot be harvested from a brain dead person if his closest kin refuse to sign on the dotted line. But in case the family has not been intimated, a donor card will come in handy.
Sunil Shroff, trustee, MOHAN Foundation, said, “That so many people are willing to donate their organs is a good sign. However, the fact that they don't know about donor cards goes to show that they have the will, but don't know how to go about it. This is what we will have to concentrate in future.”
J. Amalorpavanathan, convenor, Cadaver Transplantation Programme – Tamil Nadu, said there was a strong case to be made for expanding it throughout the State and across more hospitals.
Abroad, he explained, an orientation session is offered to nurses and staff of ICU and paramedics about the importance of organ donation. These people, being the last mile contacts between the patient's family and the hospital, are seen as key to the success of any cadaver transplantation programme. Similar training for nurses of all departments (on a voluntary basis) is going on at the Government General Hospital, Dr. Amalorpavanathan added. Other hospitals should launch similar training sessions.
While awareness is one aspect of the issue, infrastructure in hospitals needs to up upgraded, more funds and focus should be given to organ retrieval centres, and cadaver maintenance programmes, experts say. They have also highlighted the importance of the State acquiring an air ambulance to aid ferrying of organs across the State.
Organ donor cards are being printed and distributed in large numbers through the State primarily by two organisations – National Network for Organ Sharing (www.nnos.org) and MOHAN Foundation (www.mohanfoundation.org) – and are also downloadable from their websites.