Organ Donation: Where lagging Guwahati can show exemplary leadership
GUWAHATI: Organ donation programme in the city continues to lie in the doldrums due to administrative negligence and lack of general awareness. At a time when the whole of India is busy promoting and accepting the cause of organ donation, Guwahati is yet to catch up with the concept.
Every year, hundreds of patients suffering from kidney, liver, heart and other organ ailments die in the city. While one organ donor can save up to 9 lives by donating their functioning organs, the practice of cadaver organ donation is yet to make its debut here. Presently, only eye donation is prevalent in the city and kidney transplants also take place intermittently (say a couple of times a month at the most).
Organ donation is the process of giving an organ or a part of an organ for the purpose of transplantation into another person. Organ transplantation is a surgical procedure to replace a diseased organ with a healthy donor organ. It is often the only treatment for organ failure. In the entire process, first the patient enrols himself/herself on the waiting list for transplant. Only after getting enrolled and getting an appropriate organ can the patient’s diseased organ be replaced by a healthy one donated by a donor.
There are two situations under which organ donation can take place: live donation (when the person making the donation is alive) and deceased organ donation (when a dead person's organs are donated). Further, the deceased individual in this scenario can only be a victim of brain death.
Regional Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (ROTTO), located within the campus of Gauhati Medical College & Hospital (GMCH) in Guwahati, is the apex organisation that carries out organ and tissue transplant in the region. There are other non-governmental and private organisations too that have been working to spread awareness around the cause; one such prominent organisation is the Zublee Foundation. People can pledge to be organ donors either by visiting their offices or online.
Speaking to G Plus, founder of Zublee Foundation, Zublee Baruah said, “We have over 700 registered organ donors who have pledged to donate their organs after death. However, due to lack of medical infrastructure and awareness, people who are willing to donate their organs after death too are unable to do so.”
“If a person pledges to be an organ donor, they’re not legally obliged to donate all their organs. If, after their death, the family members of the deceased do not give consent, no organisation or medical institution can retrieve the organs,” she informed. She further emphasised on the need for an organ bank and facility of organ transplant in the city.
Thousands declared brain dead every year, yet city faces dearth of organs
Every year, thousands of people are declared brain dead in Guwahati. If each one of them donated their organs, it could bring an end to the sufferings of the innumerable patients suffering from organ failure and awaiting a transplant.
Case in point: Road accidents
Assam records the highest number of road accidents in northeast India, according to a report “Road Accidents in India 2016” released by the Union Ministry of Road Transport & Highways. While the total number of accidents in the entire region in 2016 was 9,552, a whopping 7,435 of them took place in Assam.
The report also revealed that deaths due to road accidents in Assam have shown an increasing trend over the years. While in 2016, 2,572 persons had lost their lives, the figures from 2015, 2014 and 2013 are 2,397; 2,522 and 2,441 respectively. Further, it highlighted that the rate of injury in road accidents has shown a declining trend. In 2016, 5,127 persons were injured, while the highest number of injuries was recorded in 2015, when 7,068 persons were injured in road accidents in Assam. In 2014 and 2013, 6,499 and 6,609 persons were injured respectively.
Priyanka Borah, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Zublee Foundation, elaborated on the numbers saying, “Out of the 2,572 people who lost their lives, even if half were declared brain dead, then we had close to 1,500 potential organ donors. Since none of their organs were actually taken into use, we wasted around 1,500 hearts, 1,500 livers, 3,000 kidneys, 3,000 lungs and 1,500 pancreases that could have otherwise saved the lives of thousands of people who were waiting for organ transplants.”
Prevention of disease, awareness and infrastructure need of the hour
Guwahati, in recent times, has witnessed an increased demand for organs, informed Principal cum Chief Superintendent of GMCH Professor, Dr Atindra Kumar Adhikari. Speaking to G Plus about the alarming situation prevailing in the city, he said, “As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. So the most important step to be taken is to work towards reducing incidences of organ failure. Then, since the problem cannot be eliminated completely, we need to raise awareness around cadaver donation and start to maintain a bank of people who are waiting for organs as well as those who are willing to donate them.”
Organs that have been successfully transplanted include the kidneys, liver, heart, lungs, pancreas, and intestines. Some organs, like the brain, cannot be transplanted. Tissues include bones, cornea, skin, heart valves, nerves and veins. Worldwide, the kidney is the most commonly transplanted organ, followed by the liver and then the heart. Cornea and musculoskeletal grafts are the most commonly transplanted tissues.
While Guwahati is only equipped to carry out cornea (eyes) and kidney transplant at the moment, Dr Adhikari informed G Plus that works are underway to make GMCH well-equipped to carry out liver and lungs transplants as well. Additionally, the faculty members have been undergoing training to carry out transplantations and other major operations.