Have you considered becoming an organ donor?
The ultimate gift
When Mumbai-based entrepreneur Radha Shah needed a kidney transplant due to renal failure, she was told her best option would be to get one from a family member. “They said that while more than 2 lakh people need kidney transplants annually in India, only 7,500 are actually carried out. Even in that, 90% of the transplanted kidneys come from living donors,” she explains. Shah, 41, was lucky. Though the process of organ donation in India is long and cumbersome, she matched with her sister Sushma and the surgery was successful. For others, the wait can be long and frustrating.
The data on organ donation in India is appalling.
We have a donation rate of about 0.52 per million population. In comparison, Spain has 49.6 donors per million population, the highest in the world. Of the 15,556 organ transplants that happened in the country in 2022, only 2,765 organs came from deceased donors
Almost all organ donation in India in 2021 took place in 15 states, with Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Karnataka accounting for more than 85% of the total.
“Lack of awareness, misconceptions and poorly trained medical professionals are the biggest challenges. It’s why there is such a huge demand-supply gap in the country,” says Lucknow-based Dr Tanvi Srivastava, a private practitioner.
Should you decide to sign yourself up, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to organ donation in India so you don’t have to Google for answers.
What you need to know about organ donation in India
Are there different types of donors?
Yes, there are two types:
1. You can donate an organ (for instance, a kidney), or parts of an organ (for example, liver or pancreas) when you are alive to someone who has end-stage organ failure. “Only relatives such as a spouse, parents, children and siblings are eligible. There’s a ban on other donations save for exceptional circumstances and even those need to be approved by the Zonal Transplant Co-ordination Centre,” says Dr Manohar Kamath, LLM in Consumer Laws and a senior medico-legal consultant.
2. Alternatively, you can register to donate after death or brain death.
How does one register?
Log on to www.mohanfoundation.org and fill the form. A printable donor card will be provided. Your pledge can also be registered with the National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO). Do note, however, that no living donor cards are available.
Who’s eligible to become an organ donor?
You can register to be an organ and tissue donor once you turn 18. Your medical condition will be evaluated at the time of transplant.
I have a medical condition. Does that rule me out?
Certain conditions, such as having HIV, actively spreading cancers, or severe infection would exclude your from participating in organ donation in India. “What can be donated, however, will be decided by doctors after an evaluation and understanding of your medical history,” says Srivastava.
Having said that, you can donate even with certain medical conditions. For example, you can be an organ donor if you have hepatitis C, if you tick all the boxes needed for a transplant and are donating to someone who also has hepatitis C.
What can I donate?
The most common organ transplanted is the kidney, followed by liver, heart, lung, pancreas, and small bowel. But you can also donate skin, veins, corneas, bones, ligaments and heart valves.
Should I become a living organ donor?
That’s a decision only you can make. Weigh the benefits and risks, and get as much information as you can from certified doctors before making a decision. Understand the process and how it might affect your future health.
Will I be paid?
It’s illegal to buy or sell organs. So no, you can’t in reality sell your kidney to buy the new iPhone.
If I donate, will I have health problems in the future?
Not necessarily. Some organs can be given up fully or partly without having long-term health issues, but make sure you check with trusted doctors first.
Will my insurance cover the process?
There are insurance plans that cover a living donor’s medical expenses such as the compatibility test, pre-hospitalisation expenses, hospitalisation expenses, organ transplantation surgery, post-surgery care and recovery, post-hospitalisation expenses.
“Some plans of the receiver, however, only cover the donor’s surgical expenses. Check your insurance plan to understand the limits and extent of its coverage,” says Tarun Sinha, an independent insurance agent.
Does my gender matter?
No, it does not. In fact, women, particularly wives and mothers, make the biggest living organ donor pool in our country. A recent gender-wise analysis of the 1,000 transplants conducted at Global Hospital, Parel, showed that 68% of the donations, or seven out of 10, were made by women. “It is unfortunately also a reflection of India’s social norms,” says Srivastava.
Won’t it mutilate my body?
“There is a belief that harvesting organs after death mutilates the body. In actuality, donated organs are removed surgically without disfiguring the body,” says Dr Kamath.
Additionally, nearly 20% of Indians fear they will be reborn without the donated organ, according to a survey by the Mumbai-based Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance. Another 21% are unsure if that will happen or not. Speaking to a religious leader you trust could help clear up this myth.
How do I ensure that my organs will be donated after my death?
Carry your donor card with you at all times. Some states in India also issue driving licences with an organ donor logo. But it’s important that you talk to your next of kin and make them aware of your wishes. “Several hospitals and doctors have had to let go of organs, even when the deceased is a donor, due to family objections,” says Dr Kamath.
Ready to sign up?