Step up campaign for organ donation, urges Vice President

The Vice President of India, M. Venkaiah Naidu called for stepping up the campaign for organ donation in a big way to meet the huge demand due to rising number of end organ failures of kidney, liver, heart, lung and pancreas. He also pressed for making organ transplantation an affordable procedure


Addressing the 29th annual conference of the Indian Society of Organ Transplantation in Hyderabad today, Naidu pointed out that although there was a huge requirement for donated organs in the country, only a miniscule number were getting them.

“Of the 85,000 liver failure patients on waitlist annually, less than 3% get the organ. Similarly, while two lakhs kidney failure patients registered for organ transplantation, only 8000 get the kidney. And barely 1% get heart /lung amongst the thousands on waitlist,” he added.

The vice president said though there was a huge leap in cadaveric organ donations in the last 4-5 years, the demand-supply remained hugely unmet because of low rates of organ donation at 0.8 per million population when smaller countries like Spain and Croatia were having rates of 36 per million and 32 per million respectively.

Observing that the significant gap in the country was due to cultural beliefs, traditions and ritual practices, he called upon the doctors, NGOs and others to make people aware of the importance of organ donation. He said “India is known for unity in diversity and altruism in all cultures and we need to increase the donation rates to meet the demand of organs for organ transplantation.”

Keeping the rising demand in view, the vice president urged doctors and other healthcare delivery providers to focus on the preventive care and making transplantation an affordable therapy for all the needy people.

Emphasising that prevention was better than cure, the Vice President said many end stage diseases can be prevented by lifestyle modifications. Expressing his concern over the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases, he told the medical fraternity to educate the people on the dangers of leading sedentary lifestyle, eating junk food and on excessive consumption of alcohol and tobacco.

Stating that yoga has nothing to do with religion, he said people should be advised to practice yoga. He also asked the medical fraternity to educate people on reducing salt intake in view of its association with hypertension.

Referring to the lack of adequate healthcare facilities and manpower in rural areas, the Vice President suggested that it should be made mandatory for doctors to serve a minimum of 2-3 years in rural areas before giving the first promotion.

Observing that doctors are treated with reverence in India, he told them to treat patients with empathy and provide the much-needed human touch. Unfortunately, due to the present-day fast-paced lifestyles, doctors were not spending as much time as needed with each patient. This should change and doctors must spend more time with each patient like the family physician used to in the past, he added.

While healthcare has been accorded utmost priority by successive governments since Independence, the challenges on this front continue to be daunting and formidable.

The major challenges include low public spend, low doctor-patient ratio, low patient-bed ratio, dearth of medical colleges and trained doctors, inadequate infrastructure in rural areas, lack of penetration of health insurance and inadequate disease surveillance and preventive mechanisms.

The efforts of the government need to be supported by the private sector, voluntary organisations and even individual medical specialists. India is spending far less than the developed nations on healthcare goods and services. While the developed nations spend about 18 per cent of the GDP, India spends a mere 4.2 per cent.

In regard to the number of physicians available per 10,000 people, their number is grossly inadequate in India when compared to developed countries.

While the number of physicians available is 20 per 10,000 population in developed countries, it is only six in India. The country needs 10.5 lakh doctors while we have only 6,5 lakh.

As against the WHO norm of one doctor per 1,000, there is one doctor per 1700 population in India. In order to reach this target, a high-level committee of erstwhile Planning Commission (Now NITI Aayog) has recommended the setting up of 187 more medical colleges by 2022.

Organ donation is one of the noblest causes. Today, with the development of science and advanced technology, the field of organ transplantation increased exponentially world over and in India.

With the increasing number of end organ failures of kidney, liver, heart, lung and pancreas, the demand for organs too been rising tremendously.

The significant gap in increasing end organ failures and the organ donations is because of cultural beliefs, traditions and ritual practices.

There should be greater focus on increasing brain death declarations in a legal and ethical way, strengthening the infrastructure in all the hospitals for organ retrieval and transplantation, protective laws and free follow-up medicines.

To increase the donor pool, transplantation society and governments should work towards increasing donations after cardiac death (which is not frequent in India), promoting altruism-related donations, legalising the donor-card and overcoming traditional beliefs by creating more public awareness.