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What you need to Know about Organ Donation

There is a gross need to educate Indians about the significance of blood and organ donations. Due to a paucity of these, many people die every day while waiting for a transplant. On the other hand, each human body is blessed with the ability to make eight organ donations, thereby saving lives; they can also improve the quality of life for at least 50 people by donating tissues.

Organs that can be donated include the heart, kidneys, lungs, liver, pancreas and the small intestine. Tissues that can be donated include skin, veins, heart valves, corneas, ligaments, tendons and bones. While not all organ and tissue donations are made from dead bodies, a majority are.

Donations from dead bodies are as per the wishes of the next of kin, but some well-meaning humans pledge their organs for terminally ill patients even before their death. Other charitable people donate even while they are alive and well.

Organ donation has a long history going back to 1954 when the first successful transplant was done in the US by transplanting a kidney from one twin to another. India legalized organ donation through the Transplantation of Human Organs Act (THOA) in 1994 and legalized ‘brain death’. A person is considered brain dead when he cannot sustain his own life, but needs to depend on maintenance in an intensive care unit. Such brain dead people are kept on oxygen till their organs can be harvested for donation to terminally ill patients. Organ harvesting is done with the same respect given to the body if it was alive and doesn’t cause disfigurements; neither does it delay the funeral arrangements.

A lot of legal paper work has to be gone through by the custodian of the ‘body’ for organ donation to prevent criminal misuse. A panel of four doctors needs to certify brain death twice within a period of 6 hours for brain death to be official. Organ donors are always in short supply and if you want to become one, a few things to consider include having any serious conditions like diabetes, cancer, HIV, or heart disease, which all preclude you from becoming a living donor. Before donation, blood typing and tissue typing is done to ensure compatibility and prevent outright rejection.

Donating an organ or tissue doesn’t necessarily lead to health issues in the future; if it were to be so, your doctor will let you know. If you were to donate a kidney or part of the liver or lung, your body would automatically compensate for it. Do understand that you do not get paid for organ donation as its illegal. The organ recipient will be the one responsible for all your hospital expenses however. You also need to keep in mind that live organ or tissue harvesting is just like any other major surgery – and comes with the same risks of bleeding, blood clots, reactions or infections.

The best benefit of organ donation however, is knowing that you are saving a life, whether it is of a grateful stranger, a spouse, parent or even a child.