The states of Goa and Odisha have each seen new developments in the push for organ donation. The former saw a registry launched by the State Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (SOTTO) whilst the latter saw the launch of thirteen new organ harvesting centres.
The organ harvesting centres in Odisha have been set up in thirteen hospitals recognised by the state government, for the purposes of procurement of organs and tissues from living donors who have lost brain function and whose relatives consent to their organs being used. “This was the last of the series of steps needed to harvest organs from brain dead persons as per the provisions of the Transplant of Human Organs Act, 1994,” a senior government official commented.
The establishment of the organ harvesting centres was announced in a notification from the state directorate of medical education and training. Seven of the thirteen hospitals will conduct kidney and eye transplants; the remaining eight will only conduct eye transplants. The Odisha office of SOTTO will oversee the centres, whilst coordinating with the Regional Organ and Transplant Organisation to facilitate procurement and transplants of other organs.
SOTTO has also established in Goa a registry allowing patients in need of transplants to register themselves on waiting lists. State health minister Vishwajit Rane launched the registry earlier this week. Rane publicly pledged to donate his own organs after his death, stating “I always believe that we should set [an] example for others. As health minister and a responsible citizen, I have done my duty.”
At the time of writing, 22 individuals in need of kidney transplants have registered themselves. The Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMC), Healthway Hospital and Manipal Hospital are registered with SOTTO, according to Dr Preeti Varghese, joint director of the Goa SOTTO office. GMC has commenced performing living donor transplants.
Organ harvesting is a delicate issue. In Goa, Dr Vasanti Ramesh, director of the National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO), emphasised the need for procurement and conducting of transplants in an ethical and transparent fashion. This is necessary, both for securing the trust of the public in order to encourage voluntary donation and to prevent the practice of forced organ harvesting, wherein organs and tissue are taken from individuals involuntary.
The two boons for organ donation in the states highlight the national need for organ donation. An estimated one million people in India are experiencing end-stage organ failure, yet just 3,500 to 5,000 organ transplants are carried out yearly. Such is the dearth of organ donors in the country that a black market thrives throughout the nation.
“India has a dismal 0.65 per million population (PMP) organ donation rate and we need to improve this,” said Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan earlier this year. “We need to create and enhance awareness about organ donation on a monumental scale, such that it becomes a Jan Andolan and people voluntarily pledge to donate their organs.”