The Myths about Organ Donation

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In an era where technology is transforming innovation, people are becoming more sensitive and responsible towards doing good to others, indulging in charitable work in whatever little form, conserving energy, natural resources and more.

One such deed that has been talked about quite often these days is the Organ Donation awareness. India has a huge crisis of organ donors who are willing to sign up for this noble cause. According to statistics available as many as 5,00,000 people die in India due to non-availability of organs each year. This is a huge number. If we break the data a little further 2,00,000 people die of liver diseases and 50,000 people die from heart diseases.  As many as 1,50,000 people await a kidney transplant but only 5,000 get one.The number of people suffering from corneal blindness has hit 10,00,000 lakh in India.

That’s all statistics. But has the idea of donating your organs ever crossed your mind? Did it ever cross your mind more than just once? Did you get yourself to do anything beyond making this idea a reality? Well, not many of us would have a positive answer to it.

Recently, a friend of mine posted this message on one of the social media, “When I’m gone, I would still be alive & kicking in someone else’s body. I have pledged to donate my organs.” Mind you, she is a 23-year old. She lost a sibling a few years ago in an accident. It was a sudden blow to the family that didn’t see this coming, but during the tense situation when the family was educated by a few doctors, they were convinced that they would donate her sibling’s organs. Her decision to pledge her organs too could be a mark of remembrance of her sibling or it could be something else. But the fact that she actually did it is appreciative!

There are a lot of apprehensions about Organ Donation and many myths related to it, let us take a look at what the reality is:

  1. Myth: People below 18 years cannot be donors
    Reality: The legal age in India for a person to become a donor is 18 years, however if the parents or a legal guardian give their consent one can become a donor. You can express your wish to donate to your family and they can give their consent to your decision.
  2. Myth: Organ Donation is a time consuming process
    Reality: It takes less than 2 minutes to fill an organ donation form.
  3. Myth: Brain death and coma mean the same
    Reality: Brain death and coma are completely different. In coma, patients are not brain dead.  Patients in coma are alive and are not considered for organ donation. A person can come back to being normal from a coma, but not when he is brain dead.
  4.  Myth: I’m not sure if my religion allows organ donation
    Reality: Among the 22 major religions in the world, none of them discourage organ donation. Most religions support organ donation for it being a noble act where one human can provide life to the other. Most major religions in India support organ donation and consider it as a noble act.
  5. Myth: There is an age limit to be able to donate. One cannot donate after 65 years
    Reality: There is no age limit to donate your organs. Organs have been transplanted from donors in their 70s and 80s too. The criteria to use ones organs is based on strict medical conditions and not the age.
  6. Myth: Prominence is given to a person’s financial status while transplanting
    Reality: All patients are equal in an organ waiting list. If someone is on a transplant waiting list, the severity of the need for the organ, the time waited for, blood type and other medical conditions are considered. The income or one’s social status does not have any bearing on determining how an organ is allocated.
  7. Myth: One’s family is charged the cost of organ retrieval if he/she has chosen to donate organs
    Reality: There is no cost to the donor’s family for organ and tissue donation. Funeral costs remain the responsibility of the family.
  8. MythAn organ recipient cannot be a donor
    Reality: Organ recipients may not be tissue donors due to the reason that they are administered immunosuppressive drugs. The medical team determines whether a healthy organ can be retrieved.
  9. Myth: Organ/tissue removal may disfigure the body and the cremation/burial process may be affected
    Reality: The removal of organs or tissues does not interfere with the funeral or burial arrangements. The appearance of the body is not altered.  A highly skilled surgical transplant team removes the organs and tissues which can be transplanted in other patients.  Surgeons suture up the body carefully, hence no outward disfigurement is visible. A scar is present after the organs are removed. In fact in a medico-legal case even a postmortem would leave behind a scar that is similar.
  10. MythOnce I become an organ donor I cannot change my mind
    Reality: There is an option for one to change his/her mind. The donor can withdraw registration by informing the registry, tear up the organ donor card and let the family know about it.

The situation is quite grave: Of the 9.5 million deaths in India every year, at least one lakh are believed to be potential donors. However, less than 200 actually become donors. At any given time any city would have 8 to 10 brain deaths in the various ICUs.  The conversion of these patients into donors would take care of the long waitlist of end stage organ failure patients.
As responsible human beings, we don’t need to set up a brigade and promote extensively towards educating people about organ donation. We can definitely work towards educating our family members and getting them to sign up for this humble and noble cause.

(Excerpts from TOI and Mohan Foundation

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