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Last Updated Tuesday May 30 2017 12:39 PM IST

Have a heart, don't snuff out organ donation

Dr. Jose Chacko Periyappuram
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Have a heart, don't snuff out organ donation

Kerala topped the Indian states in organ transplants from people who were declared brain-dead last year. The achievement becomes all the more remarkable when you compare it with a time when people from Kerala had to travel to other states for a bypass surgery.

However, more and more people from Kerala have started going to other states for organ transplants. The reason is simple: A misinformation campaign against organ transplant that first appeared on social media and taken up by a handful of celebrities.

The cost of an organ transplant includes the prolonged hospital stay after the surgery and the expensive medicines and checkups required after that.

A heart transplant costs only Rs 2 lakh in a government medical college. The cost is not greater in a private hospital. The follow-up treatment makes the difference. The cost is borne by the government in a government hospital while the patient has to foot the bill in a private hospital. In any case, any surgery is cheaper in Kerala than the other states.

Of late, inflated data on the cost of organ transplant has been doing the rounds. Some people allege that a hospital does business worth Rs 1.60 crore when it transplants all organs of a brain-dead person.

A heart transplant never costs more than Rs 10 lakh. If the heart and lungs are transplanted together, it costs Rs 14.39 lakh. The same surgery will cost Rs 50 lakh outside Kerala.

In case you are wondering why the transplants cost so much when the organs are donated, the answer lies in the cost of the preservatives for the harvested organs. The fluid in which lungs are transported costs Rs 3 lakh. The cost could go up to Rs 5 lakh if the heart is also harvested.

I welcome any regulation the government plans to bring about in this sector. But we should not turn the clock back on the progress we have made on organ transplant thanks to our sustained effort. Only five organ transplants have been done so far this year, compared with six transplants a month on average last year.

Have a heart, don't snuff out organ donation

Organ transplants are done in Kerala under government supervision. The model has been lauded worldwide. The Kerala Legislative Assembly has passed a law to govern the process. At least one organ harvested from a brain-dead person goes to a government hospital.

Only a few of the organ donations in Kerala were from patients admitted to the government hospitals. The heart transplanted in the Government Medical College in Kottayam recently came from a patient in a private hospital.

Another allegation is about the lifespan of the patients after organ transplants. Some people say that the patients did not live more than a year after they received an organ. Only one among the 20 people subjected to organ transplant has survived it seems.

The fact is, about 90 percent of patients who received an organ in Kerala are alive and well. The data is available from the government agency which monitors organ transplants.

Unfortunately, some sections of people are trying to mislead the relatives of patients who have been declared brain-dead.

Three or four doctors and many other medical staff are at work behind each organ transplant surgery. It took 48 hours to transport a heart from Thiruvananthapuram to the Lisie Hospital in Kochi and transplant it onto Mathew Achadan.

The medical teams accompanying the organs run great risks in an ambulance which runs at 120 kilometers an hour or on an outdated Dornier aircraft. Every transplant surgeon in Kerala considers his a life-saving mission. They postpone several other surgeries in preparation for organ transplants.

A hospital does not benefit in any way when it reports a brain death. Many hospitals have stopped reporting brain deaths after a malicious campaign questioned the motives of even the relatives of organ donors.

A large team is working behind every organ transplant. Relatives of deceased persons agree to donate their organs with a prayer. They send out an invaluable message to society. Let us not snuff out the light of kindness.

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