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FAQ and Myths

Q: 1 Why should I become an Organ Donor?

There exists a huge gap between the number of prospective recipients and the number of organ donors. On date, over 1.5 lac people are in need of kidney transplants in India. Need for other organs like liver, eye etc. is also very high. The number of organ donors in India has not kept pace with the development of facilities for organ transplant. Thousands of people die every year while waiting for an organ transplant. Transplants not only cure the illness, but also gift the patients much productive and better quality of life than before.

Q: 2 What organs and tissues can I donate and how would it help others?

Some of the organs and tissue that can be donated include the liver, kidney, pancreas, lungs, small bowel, corneas, heart valves, bone, skin etc. Vital organs such as the heart, pancreas, liver, kidneys and lungs can be transplanted to the patients with failing organs. To them it means a new life. Cornea transplant for someone would mean the ability to see the beautiful world around them.

Q: 3 Who can become a donor?

Anyone, regardless of age, race or gender can become an organ and tissue donor. If one is under the age of 18 years, then the consent of parent or legal guardian is essential. Medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs and tissues can be donated for transplant. However, the presence of active cancer, active HIV, active infection (for example, sepsis) or Intravenous (IV) drug use would absolutely rule out donation.

Q: 4 When actually does organ donation happen?

Deceased organ donation can take place after someone has been declared brain dead and doctors have determined that the organs can be used for transplant. Doctor will always ask the permission of organ donation from the family if your signed card is sighted. Therefore, it is important that you discuss your decision with family members and loved ones so that it will be easier for them to follow through with your wishes.

Q: 5 What is meant by brain death?

Brain death occurs in patients who have suffered a severe injury to the brain as a result of trauma or some other medical cause. As a result of the injury the brain swells and obstructs it’s own blood supply. Without blood flow, all brain tissue dies. Artificial support systems may maintain functions such as heartbeat and breathing for a few days, but not permanently. Brain death is an established medical and legal diagnosis of death. Brain death is the most common circumstance under which patients donate organs, because while they have been declared dead the mechanical support has maintained blood flow to the organs. This occurs only in the hospital, typically in an intensive care setting.

Q: 6 How is brain death diagnosed?

It is done by independent advice of a team of doctors whose qualification and experience is accepted by the hospital as per the provisions of the law. Doctors carry out a set of tests to confirm brain death. The two sets of tests are carried out at the interval of at least 6-12 hrs. Legal time of death is the time at which the second set of test is carried out. Once declared brain dead, it’s the time to take decision of organ donation.

Q: 7 With doctors’ interest in Organ transplant, will my treatment will be neglected?

Fact: Organ donation can only be considered after brain death has been declared by a physician. The doctors and nurses working to save your life are separate from doctors who perform organ transplants. The doctors strictly perform recommended tests before they declare the patient the brain death, so there is no chance of such neglect.

Q: 8 Who will receive your organ?

Your vital organs will be transplanted into those individuals who need them most urgently. Organs are matched to recipients on the basis of various factors like medical suitability, urgency of transplant, duration on the waiting list and geographical location.

Q: 9 Is it possible to jump the waiting list if you are rich, well connected and influential?

No. In India, the allocation of organs to recipients on the waiting list is based on predetermined criteria which include date of registration and medical criteria as mentioned above. The celebrity status, race, or gender of a person on the waiting list has no effect on when and whether a person will receive a donated organ.

Q: 10 Does my religion approve of donation?

All of the major religions in India approve of organ and tissue donation and consider it a gift – an act of charity. If you have questions, contact your religious advisor.

Q: 11 Will organ and tissue donation change the appearance of my body?

No. The removal or organs or tissues will not interfere with customary funeral or burial arrangements. The appearance of the body is not altered. Highly skilled surgical transplant team very meticulously removes the organs and tissues for transplant. Surgeons stitch up the body with due care, hence no disfigurement or disrespect occurs.

Q: 12 How do I discuss organ and tissue donation with my family?

Explain to your loved ones how your decision to donate at the time of your death will offer hope to others whose lives can be saved or enhanced through transplantation. If you have wanted this world to be a better place, you should aim for it even after you are gone.

Q: 13 Does it cost anything to donate organs and tissues?

Donation costs nothing to the donor family and are infact one of the greatest gifts possible.

Q: 14 What is legal position on organs donations?

It is legal by law. The government of India has enacted the "Transplantation of human organs act 1994" in Feb. 1995. This act regulates all aspect of organ donation in India.

Q: 15 Can organs be removed at home after death ?

No. Organs can only be removed when a person is brain dead in the hospital and is immediately put on a ventilator and other life support systems. After death at home, only eyes and tissues can be removed.