The need for organ donors is increasing and the number of donors is still dismally low. One main reason for this is the myths regarding organ donation. This blog aims to bust a few common myths so that people need not fear donating organs.
In India, around 3 lakhs patients are awaiting an organ transplant. Every day, around 20 patients die because they do not get an organ in time. The increase in organ donors, both living and deceased, has increased by a very small number – from 6916 in 2014 to 16041 in 2022. The requirement for organs keeps increasing and the number of donors is just not keeping pace with it.
According to the Indian Society of Organ Transplants, there is only 1 deceased donor for every one million of our population and this has been the case for nearly a decade. From 1 deceased donor per million, we need to make it 65 deceased donors per million if the organ requirement is to be met. Even worldwide, there is a shortage of donors as only 10% of the patients get organs in time. What is the reason for this? Why do people hesitate to donate organs?
In spite of the government’s efforts to encourage people to donate organs (like removing the age barrier, removal of registration fee and a number of other such initiatives), the number of people willing to donate is still very low. For example, in our country, around 2,00,000 people need kidney transplants every year but only around 10,000 kidney transplants actually take place.
One main reason is the myths associated with organ donation. Busting these common myths will reassure people and help them feel more confident about organ donation.
Myth 1: If an organ donor is admitted in a hospital with a life-threatening condition, the hospital will not try hard enough to save the donor (as his/her organs are needed for donation).
- This is the most common reason for people not donating their organs – they fear that the hospital/doctors will let them die just so that their organs can be donated.
- This couldn’t be more untrue.
- Any doctor will try his best to save his patient’s life, irrespective of whether he is an organ donor or not.
- The doctors treating a patient are completely separate from the transplant team.
- Moreover, even if the person has signed up to become an organ donor, actual donation will not be possible without written consent from the family.
Myth 2: Organ donation will disfigure the patient’s body.
- The body of the donor is not disfigured in any way.
- Doctors perform the procedure keeping the donor’s family’s feelings in mind and no visible disfiguration will be noticed.
Myth 3: Organ donation goes against religious beliefs.
- No religion prohibits organ donation and most leave it to individual choices.
- If doubts still persist, it would be best to talk to a religious leader to get it clarified.
Myth 4: The donor’s family has to pay for organ donation.
- The donor’s family doesn’t have to pay anything.
- The donor is only charged for the treatment rendered to save his life and sometimes this might get misunderstood as being asked to pay for donating organs.
- However, if doubts still persist, it is best to clarify with the local organ procurement organization.
Myth 5: Organ donation has a cut-off age.
- Young and old can both donate organs.
- While those under the age of 18 years will require parents’ authorization, once this is obtained, age is not a barrier to transplantation.
- In fact, young children too need transplants and for them the size of the organ transplanted will have to be smaller.
- Age is not a criterion for organ donation; the main criteria is the condition of the organs at the time of transplantation and this can be decided on only by the team of transplant doctors.
Myth 6: Organs can be transplanted from a donor irrespective of the way by which death has taken place.
- Organs can be donated only in case of brain death of donor.
- Brain death is when the person’s brain has completely stopped working but the other organs are kept alive through artificial means.
- Thus, circulation to other organs is necessary for organ transplantation to be feasible.
- In case of cardiac death, the organs will die within minutes of the heart’s inactivity and hence organ donation will not be possible.
- However, tissue donation will still be possible in case of cardiac death.
Myth 7: Brain death is reversible.
- Brain death is not reversible.
- There are stringent conditions to be met for a person to be declared brain dead.
- Moreover, if the patient has pledged to donate organs, doctors are even more careful before reporting the patient to be brain dead.
Myth 8: Rich and influential people are prioritized for organ transplantations.
- Rich and influential people are not favoured over others if waiting for a transplant.
- Not just social status, even other factors like religion, language, caste, etc. have no role to play in the recipient getting a transplant organ.
- What matters is how critical a patient’s condition is, how long he has been waiting for a transplant, his blood type and other relevant medical information.
Myth 9: Only heart, kidney and liver transplantations are possible.
- While the heart, liver and kidney can be transplanted, so can the pancreas, lungs, stomach and intestines.
- Tissues like skin, heart valves, etc. can be transplanted as well.
Myth 10: A person with a medical condition cannot donate organs.
- The health conditions which rule out the possibility of an organ transplant are very few.
- Even in case of a medical condition, the doctors will determine if the organs are fit for transplantation.
- For example, if a patient passes away due to cancer, his eye tissues might still be good for transplantation.
- Thus, how feasible a transplant is, depends on the individual case.
Also Read: Freedom From Disease: A Lease Of Life
The Impact of Organ Donation
Let us understand the difference a single deceased organ donor can make to the world. When a person who has pledged to donate his organs passes away, he can save up to 8 lives.
- Two kidneys can be transplanted to two different patients in need of a kidney transplant.
- A single liver can be split and given to two patients.
- Two lungs can be given to two patients.
- The pancreas can be donated to one patient.
- The heart can also be donated to one patient.
When tissues are donated (like cartilage, skin, sclera, etc.), up to 75 patients can benefit from it.
The impact organ donation can have is massive.
We can make a difference to humanity; we can change lives for the better; we can save a father, a sister or a child – the choice is in our hands.