Sat, 09 Dec 2000

It is time to pledge organs for the sake of humanity

By Amit Mukherjee

NEW DELHI: Arpita -- a 12 year old student -- died of kidney failure. She was on dialysis. The nephrologist had advised kidney transplantation. Ten months had passed, yet the life-saving organ was not available. An offer, however, came from a person asking for a whopping Rs 2 lakhs (US$4,445) for a kidney. Dismayed, the family gave up all hopes and death finally visited them.

Unless a kidney is available from the patient's kin for transplantation, it is very difficult to find a donor. State hospitals do not keep a roster of those who have pledged their kidneys. In case a donor is available, it is not within everyone's capacity to pay.

It is still the most expensive organ of the human body. The situation would never look so gloomy had people agreed to pledge their kidneys. Every day burning ghats (crematorium areas) and cemeteries receive hundreds of bodies for the last rites. Out of these, at least 100 to 200 kidneys can be easily recovered and donated to those who desperately need them.

Those vital organs which are otherwise destroyed can bring hope to the dying. The dark world of a blind can be filled with the light of happiness. The price of an organ can thus be cut down and made affordable.

Our bodies are such that even after our death, certain parts do not lose their utility. They can be used to give a dying person a new lease of life. The most useful are the eyes, liver (transplantation of the organ is possible now; such a successful operation recently took place in Chennai) and kidneys.

While a patient's family desperately appeals for a kidney or an eye, the bulk of them are regularly destroyed. Superstition, callousness and rank inefficiency are responsible for this.

There is no substance in the belief that a person who donates his eye or kidney after his or her death is deprived of it when he or she is reborn. Will a person who undergoes vasectomy then be reborn sterile?

When a person grows old or when death knocks at his door, he decides to leave all his property and money to his family because he does not want them to be misused. Similarly, the human organs, especially the ones that can be reused, are the most valuable things a person possesses.

Why should a person not prevent their destruction after death? Would a person ever refuse to donate a kidney or an eye if it was needed for his kin? To get these vital organs destroyed after one's death amounts to a "dog in the manger" policy.

Great men and women in the past have always worked for welfare of the poor and the destitute. They did not hesitate to donate their life's income for the poor. They gave away their property so that the government could build hospitals for the poor and helpless.

We can follow suit and pledge our organs for the benefit of the sick. Mere words can never sum up how it feels like when a person who has been written himself off comes back to normal life after receiving an organ in place of the damaged one.

The government of Malaysia has called upon the religious leaders to impress upon their followers the need for pledging kidneys. It is heartening to know that donation of organs by Muslims has greatly increased. Pledging of organs has increased eight-fold in China.

Unfortunately, in a country like India, the number of people who have pledged their kidneys is surprisingly and embarrassingly low. While Muslims accept the concept of organ pledging, a section of Hindus is yet to shed its inhibitions. The racket in human organs thus thrives.

If we can happily donate blood, bone marrow and sperm, why should we then refrain from pledging our organs? When a person is no more, what do we do? We hang his photograph on the wall and remember him or her with a heavy heart.

Would it not make us happier to see that a part of his body is still very much alive in an another person's body who would be otherwise dead now?

In the Gita, Lord Sri Krishna said that just as we put on new clothes when the old ones get worn out, in death too, the soul takes refuge in a new body abandoning the decrepit one.

But the organs we are born with are not meant to be discarded (as long as they are in good health) when the body perishes.

They, like the soul, are to be provided with a new shelter.

-- The Statesman/Asia News Network