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Times of India
08 September 2011
By, Pushpa Narayan
Chennai, India

The family of D Srinivasan, who was declared brain dead on Tuesday, was willing to donate his heart to Mohana Thirupurasundari. But red tapism ensured that she continued to depend on an artificial heart pump.

Red Tape Denies Patient Living on Pump a Heart
The forensic department denied permission to harvest his heart, but allowed transplant surgeons to use the kidneys and liver. Despite government rules favouring organ donation over postmortem requirements, the cadaver registry and the state health department were helpless as the forensic team insisted that the 23-year-old’s heart was vital for postmortem.

Since October 2008, the organs of some 205 people had been available for harvest, but only 32 hearts had been transplanted till June 30. “Many hearts continue to be wasted because forensic experts do not allow doctors to harvest them. We remove the heart only when it’s healthy. If the heart had caused the death, it will be unfit for transplant,” said a senior doctor at the Government General Hospital where Srinivasan had been admitted. Forensic department doctors refused to comment. The health department officials were helpless, too. “There is an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss this. We are hoping to come out with a solution,” an official said.

A fortnight ago, Mohana, who suffered heart failure, was put on a mechanical heart pump. The pump pushes blood continuously, ensuring adequate supply to other organs. “She is doing fine with the pump. But we need to quickly replace it with a good heart,” said cardiac surgeon Dr KM Cherian of the Frontier Lifeline Hospital. On Wednesday, when the hospital’s transplant team was informed about a young donor, the doctors informed the family who were overjoyed. Mohana was being prepared for the transplant.

At the Government General Hospital, doctors were finalizing the formalities of brain death for Srinivasan, who had been admitted on Tuesday with severe head injuries. Srinivasan, who works with Nokia, was a keen body builder. On Tuesday, while working out at a gym, he complained of nausea and giddiness. He fell off the stairs while leaving and was rushed to the GH.

His family signed the forms for donation. The state cadaver registry informed the hospitals about the organ. The heart was allotted to Frontier Lifeline on Wednesday morning as the doctors had flagged ultra-emergency for Mohana. But by 5.30pm the transplant team was told not to come for harvest.

Mohana’s family now plans to register their protest with the organ transplant registry and file a petition under RTI Act asking why doctors did not harvest the heart when the liver and kidneys could be removed.

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