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World Organ Donation Day 2023: Myths Related To Organ Donation Debunked By Experts

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Every year, World Organ Donation Day is celebrated on August 13. Organ Donation is the process of donating organs or biological tissues to a living recipient whose organs have failed. The common transplants include the heart, kidney, liver, pancreas, lungs, intestine, cornea, bone marrow, and skin. Organ Donation in India is governed by the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act of 1994. The law permits organ donation from both alive and deceased donors. Currently, a significant number of individuals in India lack awareness regarding organ transplantation or donation, which has the potential to save up to 8 lives per donor and even up to 75 lives if they choose to become a registered organ donor.

Dr. Prashant Jain, Sr. Consultant & Head of the Department of General Urology & Andrology, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre (ISIC), New Delhi said, “The abysmal donation rate of 0.86 per million people demands urgent and significant improvement. With over 200,000 Indians in dire need of organ transplants annually, the current statistics paint a grim picture. Despite some progress in simplifying the process of organ donation and transplants, India requires a unified national policy to tackle this critical issue effectively.”

“In the post-COVID era, there has been a notable resurgence in transplant activities, and the country achieved a milestone by surpassing 15,000 transplants in 2022. This marked a remarkable annual increase of 27% in transplant numbers, according to the Union Health Ministry. However, societal reservations remain a significant obstacle, hindering organ donation and transplant initiatives,” he further went on to say.

“Essentially, we need to focus on cadaveric donation- a generous act of donating organs, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, and pancreas, from individuals who are declared brain-dead. The transplantation of these vital organs has the potential to save up to nine lives. To address the substantial annual demand for organ transplants, it is imperative for India to actively promote and streamline the process of cadaveric donations,” added Dr. Prashant Jain.

Myths And Facts About Organ Donation

Dr Aman Priya Khanna who is a co-founder & medical director of HexaHealth, and general, laser, bariatric, and minimal access surgeon said, “Many individuals long to hear the words ‘A donor is waiting for you’ after an unending search for an organ donor to save their and their loved ones’ lives. Many myths surrounding organ donation often prevent people from donating their organs and saving lives. So, on World Organ Donation Day, we aim to unveil the truth behind these myths and answer some common questions about organ donation.

Myth 1: Anyone can become an organ donor

Fact: Anyone can become an organ donor, provided they meet certain medical and ethical criteria. Organ donation typically requires the donor to be in good health and free from certain medical conditions that might compromise the quality of the donated organs. Furthermore, the timing and circumstances of a person’s passing are also essential for deceased organ donation. Organs must be retrieved shortly after a person’s death to ensure their viability for transplantation, which might not be feasible in all cases. Only medical professionals can decide if a prospect’s organs are appropriate for transplantation at the moment of death.

Myth 2: I am too old or too young to donate an organ

Fact: Age is not a barrier to organ donation. Both the young and the elderly can be organ donors. The suitability for donation depends on the specific organ and the donor’s overall health. For children under 18, the decision to donate their organs and tissues requires parental consent. Medical professionals assess each case individually to ensure the best possible outcomes for donors and recipients. 

Myth 3: You can only donate your heart, liver, and kidneys

Fact: Donating organs involves more than only major organs. You can also donate tissues, including blood vessels, skin, bone, tendons, and heart valves. 

Myth 4: The cost of becoming an organ donor is high

Fact: The cost of organ donation is free of charge for the donor. Moreover, organ donation is a gift, and families aren’t charged for it. Organ donation cost is borne by the recipient’s insurance or organ procurement organisations.

Myth 5: Donating organs can be painful or life-threatening 

Fact: Organ donation procedures are performed under general anaesthesia, ensuring a pain-free experience for the donor. Deceased donors do not feel any discomfort during the organ removal process. The decision to donate organs is not life-threatening for living donors, as thorough evaluations prioritise their safety.

Myth 6: Rich gets organs faster than other 

Fact: Many believe the rich and celebrities receive preferential treatment on the transplant waiting list. The allocation of organs is done based on medical criteria, the urgency of the recipient and compatibility, not status or wealth. 

Myth 7: The process of organ donation frequently involves organ trafficking.

Fact: Organ trafficking violates the law and is unethical. To prevent any trafficking, organ transplant processes are strictly governed and overseen by medical and legal authorities. Organs are obtained legally from living or deceased donors who voluntarily give a kidney or a portion of their liver to a family member or close friend.

Myth 8: My organs will be taken before I’m dead.

Fact: Organ retrieval only occurs after all brain functions cease, ensuring irreversible death.

Additionally, Dr. Divya Singh who is a senior surgeon at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and director of Maaiya Social Change Front Foundation also shared some myths prevailing towards organ donation.

Myth 9 : Organ donation might affect my medical treatment negatively

Fact: Organ donation does not impact the medical treatment of a patient. Doctors focus on providing appropriate medical care based on the patient’s condition and needs, irrespective of their donor status.

Myth 10: Organ donors can transmit diseases to recipients

Fact: Rigorous screening and testing are conducted on both donors and organs to minimize the risk of disease transmission. The safety of organ recipients is a top priority.

It is essential to debunk the myths around organ donation and understand the facts. Organ donation is a selfless act that saves lives and brings hope to those in need. The decision to donate organs is not painful or life-threatening, and the procedures are carried out with utmost care and respect. By choosing to become an organ donor, you can positively impact the lives of recipients and their families. Real-life stories of organ donors and recipients showcase the life-transforming power of organ donation. Let us come together to spread awareness and encourage more people to become organ donors, making a difference in the lives of others.

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