An organ transplant crisis looms in India. A desperate imbalance between the amount of organs donated and the number of Indians waiting for an organ donation translates to hundreds of persons who die needlessly while awaiting an organ transplant. Religious beliefs, cultural traditions and strict social mindsets are hard obstacles to overcome and project a bleak future for organ transplantation In India.
Within India, many religions view organ donation differently based on traditional beliefs and perceptions. Hindus tend to perceive the concept of organ donation much differently than the majority of people in our American culture. In America organ donation is considered acceptable and a positive action that affirms life. While many Hindus embrace the concept of organ donation their lifelong religious beliefs prevail. In a country steeped in tradition, cultural concerns regarding disturbing or mutilating the body of the deceased person often outweigh the medical explanation to family members regarding the benefits of organ donation. To foster awareness and encourage organ donation it is important to understand and respect diverse beliefs.
Pallavi Kumar, executive director at the Mohan Foundation, a non-government organization focusing on organ donation, notes, “The lack of donors is complicated by the problem of certifying brain death in India.”
Kumar stated, “Lack of awareness and improper infrastructure facilities are the main reasons behind the existing scenario. Finding a donor is the main issue in the country. Also, there is a problem of certifying brain deaths in our country. If people are not aware of brain deaths, it becomes difficult to convince the relatives of the patients for organ donation.”
“Centralized registry helps in maintaining a data base of the organs and it is an organized way of sharing the organs in a transparent way. This registry is available in other countries which make the donation system easy unlike India,” Kumar at the Mohan Foundation, stated.
Kumar at the Mohan Foundation advises, “There is a need to have more transplant coordinators who will help in counseling to manage the system of organ donation. More donations should happen in the public set-up.”
The dire situation was brought to the world’s attention when India’s former Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh died while hopefully waiting for a liver transplant. Globally greater than 25,000 liver transplants surgeries are accomplished each year against an annual demand for 2,000,000 liver transplants. Doctors in India during 2009 performed only 500 liver transplants and 750 in 2010.
in India, critically ill patients requiring heart transplants confront the same problems of a donor shortage. Yearly in India, between 4000- to- 5000 patients require a heart transplant to stay alive. In 2011, only 70 heart transplants were conducted in India.
Zee News, in a story on the transplant crisis in India, published May 14, 2013 reported, “The Government of India enacted the ‘Transplantation of Human Organs (Amendment) Act’ in 2011 which made provisions for simplifying the procedure for human organ donation: The provisions included retrieval centers’ and their registration for retrieval of organs from deceased donors, swap donation and a mandatory inquiry by the registered medical practitioner of a hospital in consultation with transplant coordinator (if available) from the near relative(s) of potential donor admitted in Intensive Care Unit and informing them about the option to donate and if they consent to donate, inform the retrieval canter for retrieval of organs.”
Rajiv Pradhan, head of the Tej Kohli Foundation, a non–government organization working to promote eye donation in India, earlier told to Zee News on October 8, 2012, “Once a person dies, there is a lot of hesitation from the relatives as the general view stands that if the corneas gets extracted and is transplanted it would lead to deformities.”
Zee News goes on to report, “According to the National Program for Control of Blindness (NPCB) 2012-13 report, India abysmally lacks corneas required for eye transplantations. In 2012-13, the country collected only 4,417 corneas against a whopping requirement of 80,000-100,000 per year. “
Billionaire businessman Tej Kohli, compassionate philanthropist and founder of the Tej Kohli Foundation, which primarily focuses on treating curable blindness in India, states, “It’s a huge problem, but an entirely fixable one with the right interventions. Our active approach to philanthropy sees us working alongside experts on the ground to make sure as many people as possible can benefit from free health checks, glasses, treatments and surgery where necessary. We believe the benefits of restoring sight go farther than the treated individual: their family, their community and society as a whole benefits – and that’s where we see return on the investment.”
Throughout his stellar business career, Tej Kohli, affectionately known as TK to his family, friends and business associates, has aggressively implemented ambitious solutions to seemingly insolvable problems faced by business leaders worldwide. A compassionate awareness of the staggering number of cases of corneal blindness in India prompted Mr. Kohli to direct his problem solving abilities and financial resources to the task of eradicating blindness in his native homeland. Mr. Kohli stated, “If we raise awareness of the need for corneal donors we can overcome this tragedy and help make a big difference in the rest of these child’s lives.”