Priest shows the way in organ donation

Davis Chiramel

Davis Chiramel  

A Catholic priest who donated his kidney to a struggling electrician of another faith, sold his car to help fund a transplant and collected more than four lakh pledge forms for organ donation in Kerala, said here on Monday that governments must come forward to facilitate organ transplants through policy initiatives.

Fr. Davis Chiramel, who launched the Kidney Federation of India in Thrissur more than three years ago coinciding with his personal act of sacrifice, said people were coming forward to donate cadaveric organs of their kin with no expectation of reward, but questions relating to hospital expenditure, the medical obligation to consider organ transplant, improvements to infrastructure and brain stem death certification continued to pose obstacles.

“At present, only socially committed doctors show interest in harvesting organs from patients declared brain dead, while others feel they are not required to do that,” he told The Hindu at the Madras Medical Mission hospital prior to delivering the TANKER Foundation Lakshmi Venkataraman Endowment Oration.

The Kidney Federation of India has begun to actively promote cadaveric donation, after finding that altruistic donation of organs by living unrelated donors was difficult, and declining.

Fr. Chiramel also said the emphasis of official policy should be strongly on prevention of kidney failure, to avoid the long and expensive replacement therapies required by large numbers of people to manage the condition.

Superstition about parting with organs was also an obstacle, although countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and the Emirate of Dubai were promoting donation.

On World Kidney Day, March 14, the KFI will open a dialysis facility with ten machines in Thrissur, offering treatment for its members at a maximum of Rs. 300 per session, he said.

To reach out to the average citizen in Kerala, the priest has undertaken two ‘Karunya Yatras’ from Kasaragod in the North to Thiruvananthapuram in the South, spending time with Muslim and Hindu patients as well to understand their “pain and suffering”.

Kerala now has a organ sharing registry listing patient waitlists and providing online donor registration, athttp://knos.org.inand aims at becoming a fully literate State on organ donation.

“I am an example to show that you do not become handicapped or give up an active life after donation,” he said. Under the voluntary donation model pursued by the KFI (which has enabled 20 transplants), the recipient’s family agrees to carry the “chain of donation” forward. One member of the recipient’s family donates to another individual, who must in turn agree to do the same.

Subsequently, the Federation has actively taken up cadaveric donation awareness programmes.

An average of 12 brain stem death cases are recorded in Kerala in a day, said Fr. Chiramel.

Dr. K. Ganapathy, neurosurgeon, who instituted the endowment oration in memory of his sister Lakshmi Venkataraman, Dr. Yuhanon Mar Diascorus, Metropolitan of the Madras Diocese of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and Dr. Georgi Abraham, founder-trustee, TANKER Foundation spoke on the occasion.

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