Religious and unscientific beliefs prevailing in the society is coming up as a major challenge to organ donation in India. As patients await donors, the lack of awareness in the society is affecting organ donation in the country, said Dr ZS Meharwal, director and coordinator at Department of Cardiovascular Surgery, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute (FEHI) New Delhi during an interaction with the media in Guwahati on January 6.

Dr Meharwal, addressing the media, informed that a large section of the patients requiring transplant in India stays in the waiting list – which in turn may be fatal – as they wait for donors. “Although the first heart transplant globally was done in September 1967, due to lack of required legal provisions defining brain death, the first transplant in India was carried out as late as 1994. Even then, people often refuse to donate organs as they can’t overcome the traditional beliefs. This needs to change,” Dr ZS Meharwal said.

One of the leading institutes in the country for heart treatments, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute performed their first heart transplant on a 16-year-old suffering from a heart disease. The team of highly skilled doctors who carried out the heart transplants at Fortis Escorts Heart Institute was led by Dr Z S Meharwal.

“The patients who have had a heart transplant had been suffering from severe heart conditions for very long. Despite the multiple treatment solutions administered during the interceding years, their hearts continued to deteriorate and a heart transplant became essential. The surgeries have been successful in all the patients and they are doing very well. They are stable in their health and will have follow-ups with us on a regular basis,” Dr Meharwal added.

Emphasising the need for more organ donations, Dr Meharwal said, “It is indeed a precious moment for us to see the transplanted heart start beating again especially when the effort is to save the precious life of a patient in dire need. But what makes the entire process noble is the fact that in their deepest hour of grief, people come forward to donate the organs of their loved ones. We hope that everyone embraces this noble cause and become heroes of humanity. Also, these momentous surgeries would not have been possible without the tireless cooperation from all concerned authorities like NOTTO, the police and other stakeholders who contribute to this noble cause.”

India is reported to have the maximum number of road accidents annually in the world. According to a survey by the WHO, 60 % of the deaths in road accidents are of people in the age group of 15 – 44 years. This constitutes young and healthy people. Organ donation by their family members can go a long way in bridging the deficit for desperately needed organs. No doubt, this noble act can save many, many lives that are lost due to non-availability of organ donors.

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