When the hospitals themselves are 'failing' then how will people's lives be saved? Health Ministry in action regarding organ donation

Ronit Kawale
Ronit Kawale - Senior Editor
4 Min Read

New Delhi/Mumbai: The Union Health Ministry in a recent directive has said that failure by hospitals to identify and certify brain dead deaths has led to low organ donation rates in the country despite a significant number of potential donors being available. There is a huge shortage. It asks states to carefully document brain stem deaths in hospitals. The ministry said that the rate of organ donation after death in India is very low. This is less than 1 donor per million population in a year. In a recent letter, he reminded that according to the provisions of the Human Organ Tissue Transplantation Act, hospitals should identify each capacity admitted to the ICU.

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5 lakh organs needed every year

It said it is mandatory for hospitals to ask whether such potential donors have promised to donate organs. If not, family members should be made aware of the opportunity to donate organs before cardiac arrest occurs. After certification of brain stem death the on-duty doctor needs to investigate with the help of the transplant coordinator. It is estimated that around 1.5 lakh potential brain stem deaths occur every year due to accidents in India. Other causes, such as stroke, can increase the number. However, the total number of deceased organ donors in India in 2023 was only 1,028, facilitating more than 3,000 transplants. This is much less than the annual requirement of approximately 5 lakh organs. With barely 2-3% of the demand met, countless lives are lost due to organ failure. In Mumbai alone, more than 4,000 people are waiting for donation of organs from deceased people.

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failure to declare brain death

We need all transplant centers and non-transplant organ recovery centers to start declaring brain death. Dr Anil Kumar, director of the National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization (NOTTO), said this is an important first step to facilitate organ donation, yet this is not happening in most hospitals. He said even registered transplant centers were failing to declare brain death. An official from the Maharashtra Public Health Department said most institutions lack a panel to certify brain stem death. This hinders identification of such cases. In Mumbai and most other urban districts, most brain death certifications are taking place in the private sector.

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Center released proforma

Issuing the protocol, the Health Ministry, through NOTO, has urged the hospitals to install 'Essential Request Display Boards' at important places. This should send a message to the public that in the unfortunate event of brain death or cardiac arrest, donation of organs and tissues – such as kidneys, liver, heart, pancreas, eyes, skin and bones etc. can save lives. NATO also released a proforma to collect information from hospitals on a monthly basis. It added that heads of institutions and respective state organ and tissue transplant organizations may conduct analysis and take corrective action.

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