About Tissue and Organ Donation

What is organ and tissue donation?

It is a unique opportunity to help save lives. Today it is possible to transplant many different organs and tissue including:

  • Corneas (Eyes)
  • Heart
  • Liver
  • Kidney
  • Skin
  • Pancreas
  • Intestine
  • Heart-Lungs

Why it is important to donate organs and tissue?

Because greater the number of donors the greater the number of lives that can be saved. Each year thousands of patient with end stage organ failure receive transplant. Newer drugs, improved surgical technique and skilled health professionals are making more and more transplant successful. You can make a difference by becoming a donor.

Who receive transplant?

They are given to the patients whose own organs have failed due to some reasons or other. Depending on the types of organ they need the patients are put on a waiting list. Patients who have the greatest need will have the highest priority in receiving organs. However, organ sharing would also depend on the quality of tissue matching between the donor and the patient.

Becoming a donor is a personal decision

Explain to your family why you are thinking about becoming a donor. Let them express how they feel about organ and tissue donation. Keep in mind that donating organs and tissue could be comforting to your family- a symbolic way for you to continue to live. All major religions support organ and tissue donation after death.

How to become a donor?

Tell your family about your decision and explain to them how becoming a donor can help. As per the law anyone can donate their organs after death. At present organ donation after death in India is a voluntary decision unlike countries like Spain or Mexico where the state decides about organ donation of a particular individual. In some of the countries unless a person gives in writing during his life time about his unwillingness for organ donation, organs are removed from suitable donors to be transplanted in patients suffering from end stage organ failure (Opt Out System). In India only next of kin of the brain dead person who is considered as suitable organ donor can give permission for organ removal after declaration of brain death. Once you decide about organ donation after death, procure an "Organ Donor Card" (Figure 9) and put all the relevant information in the card including your blood group. Carry the donor card with you wherever possible. But keep in mind that Organ Donor Card is not a legally valid document in our country and final decision about organ donation can only be taken by the close family members or next of kin To be useful for the purpose of transplantation the organs/ tissues must be removed at the earliest after death.

What is brain death?

Brain death means there is complete and irreversible cessation of brain activity. It means that as a result of severe trauma or injury to the brain the blood supply to the brain is blocked, the brain dies and it cannot be revived. Special machines are used to maintain breathing and blood pressure. Once declared as ‘Brain Dead’ the life of the person can only be prolonged by few hours or few days with the help of artificial life support systems and the patient die within a few minutes once the life support system is withdrawan. But the longer the machines are used the less likely that the organs would remain viable for transplant. Common cause of brain death is head injury due to motor vehicle accident, falls, gunshot wounds, hemorrhage into brain from stroke, medication overdose, drowning and poisoning. A group of doctors conduct the required medical tests to make a diagnosis of brain death. These tests are based on sound and legally acceptable medical guidelines.

What is the procedure once a cadaver organ is available?

Permission has to be obtained from next of kin for organ removal (only those organ agreed for can be removed). Recipient of the cadaver organ is selected on the basis of blood group, best tissue matching and duration in the waiting list and medical condition at the time of surgery. The donor organs are removed in the operation theatre under strict aseptic and antiseptic precaution and they are preserved under suitable condition. The acceptable limit of preservation time of each organ is different. The organs are then carried/flown to the place where the recipient is waiting for the transplant.

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