Your Questions answered

Dr. Ramesh Shenoy
(Consultant Radiologist & Exec. Member, IMA Cochin)


1. What is meant by organ donation?
Patients who are suffering from malfunctioning of organs like heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas and lungs can prolong their life only through transplantation of the organs. The process of donating healthy organs by one human being, living or dead (cadaver), to another is called organ donation.

2. What is the need for organ donation?
There are about two million patients with end stage organ failure in our country. Every year another two lac patients are added to this list. On an average one person becomes a patient of organ failure every four minutes and one patient dies every five minutes waiting for suitable organ. Huge number of precious organs from dead persons are simply destroyed by burning or burying. Thousands of lives can be saved if we decide to donate our organs, after death, to these unfortunate victims of organ failure. It is indeed sad that even though lacs of people suffer ‘Brain Death’, every year in our country only about 50 people donate their organs.

3. Are there no other remedies for patients with end stage organ failure?
Except for kidneys the only remedy for patients with organ failure is transplantation. Patients with kidney failure can survive on dialysis. However, the cost involved is prohibitive and there is great physical strain involved in dialysis.

4. Which are the organs that can be transplanted?
There are two types of organs which can be successfully transplanted.
(a)Life saving organs such as heart, liver, kidney, pancreas and lung.
(b)Life supporting organs such as eye, skin and bone.

5. Can organs be donated by living persons?
One kidney and a small portion of liver can be donated by living persons. All other organs can be donated only after death.

6. Who can donate organs?
Any healthy person between the age group of one to 70 can donate organs. The deciding factor is the health of the organs rather than the age.

7. What kinds of patients can qualify as organ donors?
Patients who suffer ‘Brain Death’ are the potential donors.

8. How many patients will be benefited from one cadaver?
One cadaver can gift life to at least six patients apart from restoring eye sight to two blind persons.

9. What is meant by ‘Brain Death’?
‘Brain death’ is a stage when the brain does not function, there is no spontaneous breathing, patient is completely unconscious and has no response to external stimuli. The patient will be on a life support system popularly known as the ventilator. The heart is beating and the organs are functioning normally. The patient can never recover from this stage. The moment the ventilator is disconnected breathing stops with the result the heart also stops beating.

10. How does ’Brain Death’ occur?
‘Brain Death’ occurs due to primary neurological conditions like head injury, stroke, brain tumour or non-recovery of brain function following cardiac arrest or prolonged cardio pulmonary- resuscitation. Road traffic accidents are the most potent source of ‘Brain Death’.

11.Can organs be donated by persons who die for reasons other than brain death?
No. Only those who suffer ‘brain death’ can donate organs. This is because even though the person is dead the heart is kept beating through the ventilator and the organs function normally. However, in other types of death the heart stops first with the result blood supply to the vital organs is disrupted and the organs cease to function. Naturally the organs are of no use.

12. What are the pre-requisites for recognizing ‘Brain Death’ and organ retrieval?
On getting the consent of the family members of the brain dead person for removal of organs for transplantation two different doctors who are not involved with the treatment of the patient and who are from the panel of doctors from different hospitals recommended by the Government, along with the treating doctor and medical superintendent of the hospital carry out a series of tests twice to confirm that the patient is ‘Brain Dead’. The standards are very stringent and are accepted medically, legally and ethically, all over the world. Immediately after confirmation of ‘Brain Death’ the required organs are retrieved prior to cardiac arrest.
In medico-legal cases, the police inquest has to be completed before organs can be retrieved. The medico-legal post mortem will be carried out after organ removal.

13. How quickly organ transplant takes place?
The moment the life support system is disconnected, the vital organs will start collapsing starting with cardiac arrest. Hence it is crucial that the organs be transplanted from the donor to the recipient as quickly as possible.

14. Is any cost involved in organ donation?
No. All the cost will be borne by the recipient/ hospital or other social organizations in case the recipient cannot afford the payment.

14. Will the organ donation leave the body disfigured?
Not at all. The recovery of organs is carried out with utmost care in the normal operation theatre by trained surgeons. The body will be handed over to the family with the wounds properly stitched and dressed.

15. How much time is taken for removal of the organs?
Normally it takes about one to two hours .

16.Are there any religious objections to organ donation?
Not only that there is no objection, all the religions totally support the concept of organ donation because it is the very life that a person donates to another.

17. Whom should one contact for organ donation?
SORT, The Society for Organ Retrieval and Transplantation, a registered society is functioning at Cochin under the patronage of the IMA, Cochin Chapter. This society is a non profit voluntary service organisation working with canters recognised by the Government for cadaver transplantation and co-ordinating the donation and transplantation of organs. The SORT is maintaining a waiting list of patients awaiting transplant. On receiving information from you, the SORT will assess suitability of organ donation. Based on the blood group and other medical criteria for organ matching, the recipient will be selected for transplantation. Persons
desirous of donating their organs, after death, can register their wish with the society. Those who pledge to donate their organs will be provided with a donor card. There is no cost involved in this process.

18. What is the role of the family members of the dead person for organ donation?
One thing that should be kept in mind is that even though a person has pledged his organs the organs will be retrieved only after getting the consent of the family members. Therefore, it is very important to talk to the family about your wish to donate the organs. The single most important way to register as a donor is to register your wish with the family so that they will know about your beautiful wish and take appropriate action at the right moment. Even if organs have not been pledged, with any organization, before death, the organs can still be donated by the family.

After you have departed from this world organ donation in the most wonderful legacy you can leave behind. The eyes continue to see the wonders of the world and the heart continues to sing a new song. After our death, we don’t need any of our organs. So after all why burn or bury them when we can save so many lives, besides restoring sight of two blind people.