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Organ Anybody?
Gap Between Demand and Supply

A few years back, the Indian health sector was pummelled by a series of organ smuggling and theft scandals involving the who’s who of the industry. Tales galore came to the fore about doctors who were taking out properly functioning organs without the consent of patients during operations and pushing them onto the illegal organ trade market. Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are the biggest markets in terms of the illegal trade.

One reason for the illegal trade is the failure of the government in promoting legal organ donation. In two years, Tamil Nadu transplant hospitals utilised just 764 organs (Oct 2008 to Oct 2010). The figure is worse in Hyderabad, where in eight years, the figure is just 597 organs transplanted (June 2002 – Sep 2010). Even after over fifteen years of Transplantation of Human Organs Act 1994 being passed, only kidney donations are in practice. Cadaver donations are yet to see the light of day. At present, out of the 1,50,000 patients requiring kidney transplants, only 200 get kidneys by way of donations from the deceased. As per Multi Organ Harvesting Aid Network (MOHAN) Foundation in Chennai, efforts by the states of Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka have increased the rate of cadaveric donation from 0.08 per million in 2008 to 0.1 in 2010. In most developed nations, the cadavers conversion is around 25% to 30%. Yet, a 2007 WHO estimate reveals that 10% of all transplants involved patients from developed countries going to poor countries to buy organs.

India for that matter neither has clear laws not a central information agency for organ database, thus increasing the chances of buying and selling organs. It leaves the patients on the mercy of the hospitals for organs. Most of the time, registered patients do not get the organs, as these are bought by rich patients directly from the hospitals. What should we do?

Copy the US blatantly. Many states in US encourage organ donations by writing down the consent while granting the driver’s license itself, thus allowing a central information database of donors and receivers. A total of 28,000 transplants took place in US in 2008 alone! Obviously, they must be doing something right!


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