India’s organ donation figures are abysmally low, with less than 0.50 donors per million population, compared to over 30 donors per million in some western countries. This is mainly due to the ignorance of people about organ donation, as well as lack of proactive initiatives both from the state and Central governments.
Dr Ankur Garg, senior consultant, Liver Transplant. at the B.L. Kapur Hospital, told The Sunday Guardian, “When a patient comes with liver failure, the chances of getting a liver for the patient is just nil; even being doctors, we become helpless in such conditions. This is because in India, people are unaware about organ donations and the processes involved. Some fear that by donating their organs, they would also have to go through the same pain and trauma as that of the patient, which is not true.”
Against the requirement of 175,00 kidney transplants in India, only 5,000 transplants take place. Liver transplants are just about 1,000 every year against the demand of 100,000, leading to lakhs of patients dying in the absence of any available organs.
According to T.N. Panda, Managing Trustee of Mother (an NGO working for the cause of organ donation), the success of the concept of organ donation and transplantation depends largely on awareness and appreciation among the people, patient-friendly procedures, and suitable hospital facility.
The low number of transplant centres and licenced hospitals for organ transplant in India also contributes to this demand-supply gap. There are just 46 approved transplanting centers and hospitals for heart transplant in India, 153 for kidneys, 85 for liver, and 16 for lungs and just six for pancreas, according to data available on the website of Mohan Foundation, one of the largest not-for-profit organisations working to promote awareness about organ donations.
A majority of these hospitals are in South India, with Tamil Nadu leading in transplantation, followed by Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala, while states in north and eastern India are lagging way behind, with Delhi being the hub of these two zones. Experts also say that a majority of these hospitals are private hospitals located at major metropolitan cities. This deprives the rural or semi-urban population of knowledge and treatment of any severe organ-related diseases, and costs the lives of lakhs of people annually.
Till recently, neither the Central government nor the Delhi state government had any concrete organ donation plan.
The Delhi government launched the Deceased Organ Retrieval and Sharing Organisation (DORSO) in 2012 and has about 4,558 pledged organ donors listed on its website. The National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO) was set up only in 2014 by the Union government for increasing the availability of organs from deceased donors and it has 14,001 pledged donors registered.
According to Dr Sunil Shroff, Managing Trustee of Mohan Foundation, much more needs to be done by the government. “The people, especially the youth, need to be sensitised and made open to the idea of organ donation. The need of the hour is to reach out to one and all,” he said. Dr Ankur Garg, who has pledged his organs some nine years back, said that people should be made aware of the benefits of organ donation to society and such education should be given to chiledren right from their school level.