Kolkata, Feb 18: Observing that the lack of positive attitude towards cadaveric organ transplantation was a “social and philosophical issue”, experts here Tuesday called for spreading awareness on the aspect and said brain death declaration should be made mandatory.
“Two decades have passed since the Cadaveric Organ Transplantation Act came into force. But unfortunately in eastern India, only one such transplantation has taken place even though organ harvesting from brain dead patients is fairly common in south and west India,” said critical care expert Saurabh Kole.
Kole played a pioneer role in performing the region’s first such transplantation in 2012 by persuading the family of brain-dead Bimal Karmakar to donate his kidneys which eventually saved two lives.
Kole and others were speaking at a seminar on importance of cadaveric organ transplantation at the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture.
“We need to have many more Karmakars and for that there is a need to spread awareness. The averseness to this stems from religious and philosophical beliefs and I feel religious and cultural organisation can play an important role in creating a positive attitude,” said Kole, also the convener of Bimal Karmakar Foundation – set up to create awareness of organ donation.
Speaking on the occasion, Amit Banerjee, vice chancellor of the West Bengal University of Health Sciences, emphasised on the need for creating infrastructure relating to cadaveric organ transplantation including a database of prospective organ recipients.
“Along with creating awareness among the people, there is also the need to have proper infrastructure to enable prompt harvesting of organs from a brain-dead patient. But also there must be a database of prospective recipients so that the donated organ is not wasted for want of an appropriate recipient.
“Organ transplantation is a complex process and at the same time the harvested organs can be preserved for a short period, so it is extremely important that a system is in place which enables the process to be completed efficiently and promptly,” said Banerjee.
Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture secretary Swami Suparnananda said religious misbelief was acting as a hindrance to cadaveric organ transplantation.
“In Hinduism, importance is given to the soul over the body and it is ironical that religious misbelieves have been acting as a hindrance. I feel people from all walks of life should come together to spread awareness about the virtues of organ transplantation,” he said.
Critical care expert P.S. Mukherjee advocated mandating brain death.
“Internationally most hospitals including ethical committees recognise brain death as a criteria of death. While the law in India recognises brain death, hospitals here have to wait for clinical death because of the socio-cultural beliefs that people have here.”
“Just a little change in the beliefs can save many a life. Moreover, cadaveric organ translation will also help in preventing organ trade. At present nearly one-fifth of all kidney transplants world over comes from the black market,” added Mukherjee.
The experts were unanimous that religious, cultural and philanthropic organisations must endeavour to speared awareness.
Representatives of the medical fraternity are also planning to meet West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to seek governmental assistance on the issue.