Long waiting period, high cost impeding liver transplant surgeries in India

Doctors say while this procedure is life-saving, a lot of patients have to delay it because they are unable to find donor and / or gather funds required for the surgery and post-operative medication and care

Long waiting period, high cost impeding liver transplant surgeries in India

India not only has around 2,000 liver transplant surgeries each year, it is also one of the few countries that have a sizable number of living liver donors. According to reports, liver transplant is an established means of treatment for end stage liver disease. Though this is a life-saving procedure, several patients face constraints due to the high expenses involved in the surgery and post-operative medications and care.

Little Yadnya Awar is a living example of successful liver transplant, and his story also touches upon the struggles his family had to undergo to ensure he goes through the procedure. The two-year-old from Mumbai underwent a liver transplant this August as his organ started failing since he was eight months old. His parents, Rakesh and Madhura, had to face the daunting task of pooling in Rs16 lakh for the surgery.

Rakesh remains the sole bread earner of the family as Madhura could not resume her job after Yadnya was born. Many helping hands came together to provide financial aid to the young family. In such cases, some families seek help from big NGOs and charitable organisations. The Awars struggled to collect the funds, but were eventually helped by relatives, neighbours and friends. Their battle to meet the cost for the surgery continued even after Madhura was identified as the donor for her son.

Doctors said the cost of liver transplant surgeries varies, just like the cost of other treatments. “In our hospital, it will cost you Rs18 lakh while in a government hospital it will cost about Rs12 lakh,” said Dr Subhash Gupta, Chairman – Liver and Biliary Sciences, Max Super Specialty Hospital, New Delhi. “I have met many families who choose to not undergo treatment than pay the sum. They also find it difficult to find a donor. What we need to understand when it comes to a liver transplant, it is a one-time solution. If the surgery is postponed, the cost of treatment may go up by Rs4 lakh. Hence, transplant is a cost-effective solution,” he added.

“Liver transplant surgeries are expensive. In a private hospital in Mumbai, it will cost around Rs24 lakh for an adult and Rs18 lakh for children. In KEM, it may cost about Rs7 lakh, depending upon the severity of the case,” said Dr Vinay Kumaran, liver transplant surgeon at Kokilaben Ambani Hospital, Mumbai.

“It is up to the government to make these surgeries affordable. These are also resource oriented. As the number of transplants goes higher, the cost will come down automatically,” he added.

Doctors added that the wait for a match should also be a point of discussion. “Sadly, in our country, the one who has waited the longest gets the liver first. However, what one must understand is that the more you have waited the less severe your condition because had it been a severe case, you wouldn’t be able to wait at all. All of this needs to be looked into,” added Dr Kumaran.