One thousand dollars – that’s the amount a vast majority of Indians are willing to sell their kidney for. With children, the amount is closer to five hundred dollars. They may sound like pitiable amounts but for someone living hand-to-mouth it is a lot of money. The World Health Organization estimates that around 2,000 Indians per year sell one of their kidneys.
Where the lure of money does not work, transplantations are done without consent – either sans the knowledge of the victim, or extracted at gunpoint. The former happens in the guise of treatment at unrecognised medical centres and seedy clinics where the poor go in for health problems, and unwittingly come out with one kidney missing. Low literacy rates combined with poverty make those especially from rural India, susceptible to organs racketeers. Even children are not spared, and orphans and children living on the streets are most vulnerable.
What’s most appalling, however, is that the same kidneys sell at 30 to 40 times the cost price. Beneficiaries are typically, desperate NRIs and foreigners, and those from the upper classes in India, people who can afford the money but not the time to wait. Last year saw two major hospitals, one in Delhi and the other in Mumbai, busted for involvement in organ trafficking.
Obviously, these rackets do not exist in a vacuum. They have mushroomed due to the huge gap in supply-demand of organs. Of the 21,395 kidney transplants that have happened in the country since 1971, only 783 came from cadaver donors. With advances in medical science, organ transplantation is now recognised as the most effective treatment for a long list of fatal conditions. Yet, with a population of over 1 billion, 500,000 people in India still die of organ failure every year. Why then, is organ donation, not a prominent part of our culture?
A conversation with my mother was quite revealing. My grandfather had registered himself as a donor. However, when the time came, the family was in such shock that no one recalled it. If they did, no one brought it up out of sensitivity. My mother explained that it was unthinkable at the time to suggest an operation that ‘mutilates’ the body of the deceased one. Moreover, some people mistakenly believe that their religion prohibits donating organs. Such notions are only going to be dispelled through more conversations. For instance, doctors could be forthcoming in suggesting
For instance, doctors could be forthcoming in suggesting donation to a fatally-ill patient and counselling relatives on the dignified procedure that removes organs. Organ donation platforms are also trying their best to get people on board with this practice.
India still does not have a national registry of patients waiting for cadaveric organs. Neither does India have a national registry of donors. In some countries like Singapore and Belgium, every citizen is by default, an organ donor, registered on central grid. A centralised system using the Aadhaar card could be used, likewise in India.
However, the State is slowly awakening to the urgency of organ transplantation. Green Corridors, which ensure fast passage for the organ-carrying ambulance from one hospital to the other, have been organised in various cities across the country. As for your part, sign up to be an organ donor, today.
It’s a simple process of signing a registration form that can be found here or an adequately equipped medical facility near you; get signatures of two witnesses, submit to the hospital and you are done! Speak to your family about your decision and keep the consent form on you at all times. Think about it, at any given time, somewhere around three lakh patients are waiting for a transplant in India, and a procedure as simple as this can save one of their lives.