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Organ Donation – The Priceless gift of life

August 19, 2011 divider image

Death is not the last sleep. It is the final awakening – Walter Scott

Organ donation and transplantation is one of the most remarkable medical success stories of the century. Besides blood (yes! blood is an organ) eyes, kidneys, liver, pancreas, skin, bones, etc can also be donated.

There are two types of organ donors:

  1. Live donors who can donate organs such as kidneys, liver, etc.
  2. Brain dead patients (Cadaver).

It is the latter group who can help supply as many as 50 organs. Such procedures are governed by the Transplantation of Human Organs Act (THOA).

This article is specifically written to educate Rotarians on Cadaver organ donation. Organs can be harvested from cadavers when it is imminent that the person is not going to survive. These cases are ‘brain dead’ as a result of road accidents having sustained brain stem injury, intracranial bleeding or brain tumors. Brain dead is a permanent cessation of all brain function, when it cannot send messages to the body to perform vital functions such as breathing, sensations, obey commands, etc. Such patients are dept on artificial life support (ventilation) to maintain oxygenation of organs so that the organs are in healthy condition until they are harvested. Such patients who will not survive can help save or sustain several people desperately requiring organ transplantation such as kidneys, liver, heart, etc. A classic example of recycling ourselves. What purpose it serves if the body is cremated or buried with healthy organs? One thing I would like to stress and that is the body is not disfigured during harvesting of healthy organs so that rituals can be performed comfortably. It’s a great solace to even think that the near and dear ones who are deceased, continue to ‘live’ in several bodies which in effect means they are alive.

In India, over 1,00,000 people die for want of organs every year. Only about 3,500 receive organs. Every 13 minutes a person is added to the long waiting list and 17 die every day for want of a life sustaining organ. The current organ donation rate in India is 0.08/million and the requirement is just 2/million to meet the shortage. About 1,10,000 people die on road accident annually. 67% of these cases suffer brain death. It is estimated even if 5% of such cases donate their organs, it would suffice for the annual requirement of the country. Many NGO’s are working for helping in harvesting of organs from the brain dead patients. Mohan Foundation (Multi Organ Harvesting Aid Network) in Chennai is doing commendable work in the direction. Readers will be enlightened to go through their web site –

Other organization working towards this goal is Organ Retrieval Banking Organization (ORBO), New Delhi, Armed Forces Organ Retrieval & Transplantation Authority (AORTA), and Foundation for Organ Transplantation & Education (FORTE) Bangalore.

In India 1,500 odd cadaver organ transplants so far have shown that we are capable in handling the issue. What is required is mass awareness and education by Government, NGO, etc. Sri. Ramchandra College, Chennai conducted a survey in 2008 wherein 5008 members of the various age groups, religion and social classes were studied. Happily 72% of the people were willing to donate eyes and 50% were willing to donate organs. It is also heartening that major religions permit organ donation.

Role of Rotarians: – Rotary is world’s oldest and largest social organization known for its commitment. This year’s RI theme is ‘Reach within to embrace humanity’. It’s perfect for the subject of organ donation. After all it is our organs within which can embrace others body to prove oneness of humanity. Members of Rotary clubs in India contribute hugely in voluntary blood donation. It is apt that we now move to yet another challenging need of the country. Our doctors are world class, but they cannot perform organ donation without public participation. Let the charity begin at home by Rotarians pledging to be organ donors. The avenue is wide open. I have several wonderful presentations on the subject, which you will find fascinating. Please sms/email me should you get interested to know more of this highest of altruistic act.

[slideshare id=8711811&doc=organ-donation-110728053628-phpapp02]

Sqn Ldr Rtn. Dr. Ravi Wankhede
Chairman – Dist. Organ Donation Promotion Committee 2011-12.
Cell. 09423683350

In my end is my beginning – T S Eliot

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