You’ve heard and seen organ donation on TV and in movies. But this wonderful, life-saving act is not just limited to the screen. Stars like Aamir Khan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, Salman Khan, and Sonakshi Sinha have helped boost organ donation pledges in India by 16,500% in just two years! These acts and many other programmes that create awareness and help people sign-up for organ donation are helping those in need. It is estimated that close to half a million Indians suffer from end-stage organ failure every year. And organ donation is the need of the hour.

On World Organ Donation Day, TC46 connected with Dr Sanjith Saseedharan, Consultant & Head-Critical Care of SL Raheja Hospital, Mumbai to better understand this process. Here, he shares 7 vital facts about organ donation and ways to create awareness. 

1. Anyone above 18 years of age can donate an organ

When a person or the next legally acceptable relative (in cases where the patients cannot give consent, for example, brain death) would donate an organ or a number of organs for the benefit of some other patients who are in dire need of the organ, this would be termed as organ donation. The suitability of such a donor is judged by a medical team and the organs are then distributed centrally, as per a predefined protocol to various patients across the city, state, and country. Any person above the age of 18 years during his or her own lifetimes can also donate a kidney, part of the liver and pancreas. However, there are a set of rules that need to be followed in these cases and such a transplant (living donor) has to be passed by the hospital authorization committee.

2.  The number of patients waiting for a new organ is high in India

India is a country where almost half a million people die each year for the want of an organ. This is a preventable death, and the lack of awareness that the general population has, increases the list of patients waiting for an organ and the eventual death of such patients. Indian population is huge and there is no dearth of people who can become organ donors, however, this lack of awareness makes this a very vital situation in India.

3.  Volunteering with National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation is easy

You can volunteer to be a donor by registering on the website www.notto.nic.in or by downloading Form 7 as per the transplantation of human organs act and then send it to NOTTO Delhi. All registered hospitals in your city (hospitals performing organ transplant and organ retrieval) would have transplant coordinators who will help you with the same.

4. The relative of a deceased person can provide consent for organ donation

Any living person older than 18 years of age can volunteer to donate his or her organ or tissue for medical and therapeutic purposes. In case of a deceased person, the near relative or any person who is in lawful possession of the dead body can authorize and give consent for the donation of organs and tissues.

5. Hospital committees successfully oversee live organ donations

Yes, when alive, one kidney, part of the liver, and part of the pancreas can be donated. This can be done voluntarily and the authorization of these living donations are given after strict scrutiny of an appointed hospital committee for this purpose.

6. Organ donation is possible in all areas of the country

The National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization (NOTTO) is a national level organization set up under the Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare which works as the apex body for the allocation and procurement of organs. This organization networks with regional and state-level organizations for this purpose. For example, the Zonal Transplant Coordination Center (ZTCC) in Mumbai is the subsidiary body with which this body networks with large tertiary care setups in the city of Mumbai are responsible for the organ transplants which are all governed by the ZTCC. However, all small hospitals and nursing homes in the city of Mumbai at least have been instructed to declare brain death (when considering a case where there is brain death) and can take the help of the ZTCC for the purpose of organ donation. 

7. Age and medical fitness matter while donating organs

Ineligibility generally arises if the patient is medically unfit for the same or is beyond the age limit for organ donation. This age limit is different for different organs. For example, the kidneys have the age limit of up to 70 years and the heart up to 50 years of age. Even then, some borderline cases are carefully studied by senior doctors regarding the chances of successful transplantation and are then called marginal donations, (primarily due to the acute shortage of organ donation). The other way to promote organ donation, if you are not eligible, is to spread the word among peers, talk about it in small groups, take up the cause with non-governmental organizations, hold drives in large corporate setups to create camps, and get key opinion leaders and influencers like film stars and other celebrities to talk about this. The first step would be to create awareness and then educate the aware people regarding how this could save lives.

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