The ratio of demand versus supply of donor organs is very limited in India with thousands dying every year of critical conditions and a paucity of healthy donor organs and tissues. There is a gross need for educating the masses on the importance of organ donation. While most of the organs donated come from ‘brain dead’ people, a few are donated by living healthy individuals too.
The good news is that awareness of organ donation has been on the rise over the past few years with more charitable people coming forward to donate blood and organs. While organ donation depends on the goodness of heart of the next-of-kin of brain dead individuals, blood or organ donation from living people depends on the individual’s own personal decision as anyone can donate.
There is no age restriction for donors and even youngsters below 18 years can donate -with the consent of their parents. There have been incidences where an 80-year-old has successfully donated cornea, a 90-year-old donated part of his liver and a 60-year-old donated heart valves and tendons. The important thing is that the donor be healthy and free from communicable diseases, especially viral ones like hepatitis and HIV. The same restriction holds for blood donations too. However do note that an HIV positive person can donate to an already HIV positive recipient as it will make no difference in the health status of the recipient.
Other people who aren’t eligible for donation include individuals with the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or those with active cancer that has shown signs of spreading over the past 12 months. However not all cancer patients are barred from donation. People with serious heart disease, kidney disease or high risk social behavior are also not eligible for donating organs or blood.
Even if the donor doesn’t declare his/her health status, a general screening is performed for these two highly communicable diseases before blood or organs are harvested for donation. Various other relevant blood tests, chest x-rays, angiograms or ECGs are conducted to check the health and functionality of the organ to be harvested.
It’s always better if the ethnicity and race of the donor and recipient match to ensure higher compatibility – however, this isn’t a limiting factor for donation. Transplantations are also easier if the blood and tissue types of the donor and recipient are compatible.
When it comes to donating blood, any healthy and fit person between the ages of 17-66 can become a donor. Healthy men can donate blood as often as every 12 weeks while woman need 16 weeks by virtue of the fact that they lose blood every month during menstruation.
However, there are some criterions and restrictions to blood donation too; if you have had a blood transfusion or received any blood products, have hepatitis or are taking cold medications or certain other medications, then you will not be able to donate blood. Aside from this, if you are pregnant, have cancer or have a tattoo, you are automatically disqualified from becoming a donor.
However, the doctor is the best person to decide on your eligibility.