What the numbers say

To get a grasp of how bleak things are in the landscape of organ donation and transplant in India, we can look at a few statistics. Annually, an estimated 500000 people die in the country for unavailability of organs which could restore them to health post surgery. 200,000 people die of liver disease alone, and about 50000 from untreated heart disease. Over 150000 individuals wait for kidney transplant operations and as little as 2% of them receive access to a donated kidney. There are 10,000,000 blind people in India, which is home to the largest conglomeration of the visually impaired in the world, and the blind of India live in perennial darkness because donors of healthy corneas are so few, and come far between.

India also has the world’s second largest population, and at the last Census recorded 1.3 billion people living in the country. Alongside this, the country records some of the lowest rates of organ donations made to those in need. Some sick people manage to find living donors, usually a friend or a relative with a matching organ type. The rest have no option but to wait for death to come knocking on the door.

Why is there such a need of donated organs?

In recent years, the demand for donated organs, particularly for kidneys, livers, hearts, eyes, and lungs have gone up alarmingly. In part, modern life with its tendency to lean toward immoderate lifestyle practices (not having a regular sleep cycle, alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, drug abuse, and eating diets not rich in micronutrients but heavy on complex sugars and fats) are to blame. Levels of pollution have also gone up and crossed all previous marks, making the very air we breathe in dangerous for us to take into our bodies. Millions of people in rural India have no access to good sanitation facilities and misuse water resources, polluting their food and exposing their bodies to the risk of contracting infections. Many, admittedly, still don’t have the ability to afford three square and nutritious meals every day. These socioeconomic factors contribute to ill health, especially if we honor the WHO definition of health as not an absence of disease, but a state of overall well being, physically and mentally.

It is easy to see how diseases may not be averted. With the Indian government still not able to provide universal health coverage to its massive population, many illnesses also exacerbate in the patient’s body because apt treatment is too expensive. Primary healthcare facilities in India are in a generally run down state, and there are not enough centres or hospitals to cater to the growing population. Adding to this woebegone situation is the fact that there is a shortage of doctors in India, and this is no longer a dearth authorities try and conceal from the public.

Without doctors and adequate access to affordable healthcare, diseases are carried to a point where only extreme treatment measures, such as organ transplants, which is when a dysfunctional or deeply infected organ,, a failing organ, in your body is surgically removed and replaced by a healthy organ from the body of a donor. A single donor can offer organs to save as many as eight lives. The chief reason why far fewer donated organs are available than are necessary to save lives has its roots in Indian culture, with many religions advocating the preservation of the body in death and either cremation or burying it, as well as families’ reluctance to tamper with the bodies of their loved ones after death. In India, organ donation is absolutely legal, with brain dead people (not people in coma) also serving as donors as far as law goes, though the number of deceased cadaver donors (whose organs need to be harvested within a few hours of death) much lower in number than the number of live donors, who are required by law to be a blood relative of the patient, though this law has been bent in the interest of saving as many lives as possible. An illegal black market trade in India sadly continues to thrive, and helpless families are compelled to buy organs at exorbitant prices to save lives.

Funding organ transplants

Even if a donor is found, organ transplant remains one of the most expensive treatments in India. In recent years, many individuals have chosen to crowdfund for the medical transplant operations of their parents, children, or friends. With medical crowdfunding on India’s leading crowdfunding platforms like Impact Guru, donors are able to pool funds and respond to the call of those in need, raising astronomical sums for cost of treatment through secure online donations. Crowdfunding enables and empowers those who need transplants to live in good health, inclusively and without discrimination.

Author's Bio: 

Author, Freelance writer