Organ Donation - The Invaluable Gift
In a letter, one person who received a kidney wrote simply: "I am awed by your generosity at such a difficult time."
Words you should know
Organ: A part of the body that has a particular task, like the heart which pumps blood or the kidney which cleans the blood.
Tissues: Different materials in the body that each help the organs to work, like blood or skin.
Donation: Giving an organ or tissue to a medical team who can use it to treat someone when there is no other cure.
Transplantation: The operation to put a healthy donated organ into the person who needs it, after theirs has failed.
Donor: The person who gives the organ or tissue.
The need is great: Why donations are so important
- Thousands of people in India die every year because their heart or kidneys have been badly damaged by disease.
- More than 2 million Indians, mostly children, suffer from blindness because of a damaged cornea (the front part of the eye).
- Technology has made amazing progress but body organs and tissues cannot be made by science.
- Organs cannot be bought. They must be a gift.
- All world religions - including Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Judaism - approve of and support organ donation, considering it an act of charity.
The Cost: Nothing
The Value: Priceless
All you need to do is sign an organ donation card
Who can donate
Almost any healthy individual, young or old, can donate organs.
"On 7th February 1999, a baby girl was born in Delhi. It was not just another birth, she was born with two holes in her heart. The tiny creature struggled, but on fifth day she breathed her last. Although her parents were shattered, they came up with the idea that if the baby's eyes were donated, her little life would not have been completely futile. She would have left behind two grateful people who would be seeing the world through her eyes. Though she was too young to have a name, the youngest known eye donor was not too young to make a most meaningful donation." Recollected by Shivani and Rajiv Joshi, parents of 5 day old eye donor.
The basics of eye donation
- Eyes provide the gift of sight through corneal transplants, that is, using the clear front part of the eye surface to replace one that has become scarred and cloudy.
- Eye donation is voluntary and costs the donor nothing.
- Contact the nearest Eye Bank to register your promise.
- The Eye Bank will provide you with an eye donation card.
- Carry this card with you at all times.
- Tell your relatives of your wish to donate your eyes.
- If possible, mention your wish to donate organs in your will.
- Eyes of a deceased person can also be donated whether or not he has pledged his eyes in his lifetime. Under law, relatives of the deceased can donate his or her eyes provided he or she has never spoken against eye donation.
- Eyes should be removed by medical personnel within six hours of death.
The basics of other organ donation
- Organ donation is voluntary and cost the donor nothing.
- Get a donor card from your local hospital and fill it out.
- Carry this card with you at all times.
- Share your decision with family members who will attend you at the time of death.
- If possible, mention your wish to donate your organ in your will.
A living person can donate:
- a kidney, as only one kidney is needed for the donor to live a normal life.
- part of the liver, as the part left behind can make up for the loss and the donor continues to lead a normal life.
- bone marrow, as bone marrow is always regrowing and lets the donor lead a normal life.
The following organs can be used immediately after death:
- both eyes
- both kidneys
- heart, with or without the lungs
- the whole body - for important research by medical students
Donation of most organs happens at death when a doctor is sure that the heart has stopped finally. This is called "heart beat death". Organ donation following heart beat death is advised.
If the brain has died but the heart is still beating due to a life support machine, this is called "brain death". Donation if this happens is not advised.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
"Are there any costs to the donor or his family?"
No. All costs are handled by the organ donation programme or transplant centre.
"What can be donated?"
Kidneys, liver, heart, lungs, pancreas, small intestine, corneas (eye), bone, bone marrow, heart valves, connective tissues (skin and tendons) and blood vessels.
"Will the hospital staff's efforts to save your life be lessened if it is known that you are a donor?"
No. The transplant team does not become involved until after the doctor is sure that all efforts to save your life have failed.
"What about the body after donation?"
The removal of organs does not change the basic appearance of the body and will not change funeral arrangements.
"Can I donate some organs and not others?"
Yes. You can decide which organs you wish to donate.
"Can my family meet the person who receives my organs?"
No, the person you help will always remain anonymous (unknown), but the family may still feel comfort knowing that the organ was used to restore eyesight or health.
"Who can donate?"
Anyone over the age of 18 can donate organs. The body of a deceased person below the age of 18 can be donated only if the parents agree.
"Is my decision confidential?"
Yes, your decision is completely confidential (private). However, we advise you to tell your doctor and your family members of your wishes.
"Can I change my mind later?"
Yes. Just tell your family members and tear up your card.
Where to donate in India
Heart and Liver: In India, only one location is available for transplantation, which is the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi
Kidneys: Transplantations are performed in many hospitals in the major cities of India.
Eyes: Check for the nearest Eye Bank in your local community.
Whole body: Contact your nearest medical college for more information.
Can Save the Lives
Of Five People
Restore Sight to Two.
PLEDGE TO DONATE