The Heart That Gives, Gathers!

“What are the wonders of the world?” once a teacher asked the class. Every student started shouting answers. ‘Taj Mahal’, ‘The Great Wall of China’ some said, someone said ‘Machu Picchu’. One little girl, meanwhile, was quietly sitting near a window gazing outside. The teacher saw her and asked the class to maintain silence. Approaching the little girl, the teacher asked, “Dear, what happened? Don’t you know the wonders of the world?” The girl looked at the teacher, smiled and said, “Yes, Teacher, I do! But not all of them.” The teacher encouraged her, “That’s alright; would you like to tell the ones you know to the class?” The little girl hesitated for a moment and said, “It’s a wonder that we can see this beautiful world with our eyes, it’s a wonder that we can breathe freely, it’s a wonder that we can hear melodious music and sounds of nature, it’s a wonder that we can feel all the little miracles of nature. As of now I know just this much!” The teacher and the entire class were stunned by the answer and soon there was a round of applause as they realised something truly meaningful that day. Rich or poor, everybody is blessed with a body that is extremely valuable but we all take it for granted.

What if I were to tell you that you won’t be able to see hereinafter although your blindness is curable? What if I were to tell you that you are suffering from a serious organ disorder and have couple of months to live although there is guaranteed replacement procedure available if healthy organs were made available? And you won’t get treatment just because someone doesn’t feel like taking a simple initiative. You would be enraged, right? You would be furious and baffled by whimsical excuses given by a large percentage of population when your sight, your health or your life were in danger. Unfortunately, this is not a farfetched situation but in fact a reality nowadays!

Out of the 37 million people across the globe who are blind, over 15 million are from India. What’s worse, 75% of these are cases of avoidable blindness, thanks to the country’s acute shortage of donated eyes for the treatment of corneal blindness. At present, almost 5 lakh patients are waiting for an organ transplant. India’s current population is almost 132 crores. Imagine, even if 10 percent of our population starts donating their organs, there won’t be a single person in our country waiting helplessly for healthy organs. Many people would be able to see, many would be able to live.

Then what is stopping us all? Well, there are number of reasons such as apathy towards the cause, misconceptions, superstitions, misunderstood traditional values, poverty, and any more. You won’t understand what a blind person goes through on a daily basis unless and until you blindfold your eyes for at least an hour and try to do your small routine things. Let someone see through your eyes what you have seen. If awareness is created in early childhood, one will be empathetic towards others. Most people do not understand this valuable aspect until destiny knocks on their door and they themselves or their family or friends suffer the same. Let’s not wait for that moment.

Many people in India believe that after death, a dead body must be burnt or buried as per religious rituals and traditions; and organ donation disfigures the body, and thus the soul of the person doesn’t get emancipated. Also disfiguring the dead body hurts the feelings of family and friends. Here, can we relate to the feelings of the families of patients?

All religions have always preached about helping others. In fact, spiritually it is said that we all rent the physical body temporarily and once we die, the soul becomes free to take another form. So, from where have we picked up this wrong notion of possession that we all own this body even after death? Nature gives birth to all of us. Our body consists of all the elements from nature and once we die, all goes back to the nature again, doesn’t matter if it is burnt or buried. This donation doesn’t affect you and doesn’t cost you a thing. If that is the case, instead of wasting this valuable asset, why not help someone in need!

One person can help save eight lives by donating organs and tissues. For donating, the organs must be in healthy condition. Organ donation usually takes place in different cases such as living donation, cadaveric donation, or donation after death. In living donation, one can donate blood, bone marrow, kidney, tissue, etc. and still live a healthy life. In cadaveric donation, one can donate eyes, heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, intestine, etc. After death, whole body can be donated.

The Indian Government has enacted the Transplantation of Human Organs Act (THOA), 1994, to provide for the regulation of removal, storage, and transplantation of human organs for therapeutic purposes and for the prevention of commercial dealings in human organs.

The Act allows organ donation and has legalised the concept of brainstem death. As per Sec 2 (d)of the Act, brainstem death means the stage at which all fimctions of the brainstem have permanently and irreversibly ceased and is so certified. Vital organs of such patients are maintained in an ‘intensive care unit’ on artificial support. With the help of a medical counselling expert, the family of a brain dead patient can take the decision of organ donation.

Various NGOs and numerous institutes have been working to spread awareness and educate people about the cause. Because of it, many quick transplants of major organs are occurring across many cities. Zonal Transplant Co-ordination Center maintains the computerised waiting list, blood group wise, for each organ like kidney, liver, heart and lung, as per the priority criteria given in the Maharashtra State guidelines. Green corridor is also established for speedy transportation of the organs.

In India, most people are not aware of the concept of organ donation and thus are scared. In rural area, many do not know about the cause because they are struggling for their own livelihood. Even in cities, highly educated people face difficulties in donating their organs. The laws and procedure is strict for organ donation but that should not be feared as it is necessary to prevent commercialisation of organ donation and human organ trafficking. It is the will that matters the most. If you really want to do something, you will surely find a way.

Nowadays, organ donation form is available in all government hospitals. In absence of such form, even family members can give their consent for organ donation. However, in many cases, family members do not consent to organ donation. Thus, even though a person wishes to donate organs, if family members object to the same after the person’s demise, then practically organ donation as per the person’s will becomes impossible. It is necessary to make legal regulations and acts to make the ‘Will of Organ Donation’ legally binding to honour the wishes of the deceased.

So what can we do? We can fill a prescribed consent form, which can either be downloaded from National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization (N OTTO) website or can be registered at government hospitals. We can carry a donor card along with us. We can keep our family and friends informed about our decision. We can spread a word and educate our near ones.On a larger scale, organ donation information can be given at various schools and colleges. Every hospital should provide easy accessible information counter for organ donation.

Change begins from us.

Someone has said it well — ‘Don’t think of organ donation as giving up a part of yourself to keep a total stranger alive. It is actually a total stranger giving up almost all of themselves to keep a part of you alive.’

Adv. Aparna Dhavle-Waikar
Mumbai High Court and District Court (Pune)

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