21 November 2011
By Rito Paul
Gira Soni, 43, has been on dialysis for 11 years after an autoimmune disease ravaged her kidneys. Recently, she developed Hepatitis C through an infection contracted during the dialysis process.
Since she doesn’t have a family member to donate a kidney, her only hope is a cadaver transplant. But that too is a long shot.
There are 4 lakh people in India who need a kidney transplant. “Only 1% of that number or 4,000 people actually get a transplant. And less than 5% of those 4,000 people get a cadaver transplant,” said Dr Bharat Shah, senior nephrologist and transplant specialist.
Gira’s brother, Rohit, said his sister would be lucky to get a transplant in the next 10 years. Apart from Gira, Rohit’s two brothers and another sister too suffer from kidney ailments.
“Around 40,000 people in Maharashtra need a kidney transplant.
Out of that, only 1% (400 people) will get one. And less than 5% of the 400 people will get a cadaver transplant,” said Dr Shah.
“The rate of transplants in Maharashtra is pathetic. I was in Ahmedabad where a single government hospital has performed 300 transplants in a year. But in Maharashtra, only 30 to 40 transplants take place annually,” said Rohit.
According to Dr Shah, the state urgently needs to make amendments to the Transplantation of Human Organs Act. “Only a few big hospitals based in Mumbai and Pune are allowed to extract organs from patients who’ve had brain death. So if someone dies in a small town or village, then they have to be first shifted to a big hospital in the city and then the organs can be extracted. Most people opt not to go through the hassle,” said Dr Shah.
The other problem hindering the rate of transplants in the city is lack of awareness. “Immediate family members are often dissuaded by relatives. Some people believe that if an organ is taken out of the body then the deceased will be reborn without the same organs. Such misconceptions are common among people,” said Jyoti Nagda, a social worker who has worked as a transplant coordinator at Hinduja Hospital.
Lack of awareness also proves to be a procedural hindrance. In cases of accidental death where the victim is brain dead, the police have to give permission to hospitals to extract the organs.
“Most police people are not aware of the benefits of organ donation, so they often refuse permission,” said Nagda.
So what is the solution?
Dr Shah said there should be a two-pronged approach. “First, we need to amend the Transplantation of Human Organs Act to make sure that the permission is given to more hospitals to extract organs in case of brain death. Second, awareness of the benefits of donating organs should be spread. A single brain-dead cadaver cannot only donate kidneys but also heart, lungs and eyes, saving multiple lives.”