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How will people’s lives be saved when hospitals themselves are ‘failing’? Health Ministry in action regarding organ donation


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 resulted in 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 from hospitals. The ministry said that the rate of organ donation after death in India remains very low. This is less than 1 donor per million population in a year. In a recent letter, she reminded that according to the provisions of the Human Organ Tissue Transplant Act, hospitals should identify each capacity admitted to the ICU.

5 lakh organs needed every year

It says it is mandatory for hospitals to ask whether such potential donors have pledged to donate organs. If not, family members need to be made aware of the opportunity to donate organs before cardiac arrest occurs. The on-duty doctor with the help of the transplant coordinator is required to conduct an inquiry after certification of brain stem death. 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 organs to be donated 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 National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization (NOTTO), said that this is an important first step to facilitate organ donation, yet this is not happening in most hospitals. He said that even registered transplant centers are 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 hospitals to put up ‘essential request display boards’ at important locations. This should convey the 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 issued 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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