The surgeon was narrating how 26-year-old Gnanaprakasham became brain dead after a road accident on November 17 and how his organs were harvested at the hospital on November 21 and provided to those in need of it. Right through the press meet, Gnanaprakasham’s mother Chinnaponnu was inconsolable. The family had lost a son who had a postgraduate degree in engineering and was just into a job as a lecturer in an engineering college here. His father, M. Ranganathan, a retired school teacher, got Rs.6,000 pension and the brother was still studying. “First, it took a lot of effort to tell the parents and brother that Gnanaprakasham was brain dead. Then, we had to persuade them to donate his organs to make some people live,” Dr. Vijayakumar said. “We need to spread a lot of awareness on organ donation.”
Claiming that all the patients who received the organs were doing well, the surgeon said a lot of procedural wrangles needed to be removed if organs had to be transplanted within a specified period. “We faced problems at the airport as the security insisted that the bags containing the harvested organs must be put through an x-ray machine. Had we done that, we would have lost the organs.” The surgeon said that while harvesting and transplantation required a huge team of surgeons and paramedical staff, the transportation of the organs needed the support of people, because speed held the key to successful transplantation.
Dr. Vijayakumar contended that the present system and rules denied a smooth process of harvest of organs. At present, a neuro surgeon and a neuro physician should certify a patient as brain dead. “Government doctors are overburdened. Sometimes we have to call them at midnight because consent from relatives can come at any time. And, there is the pressure of maintaining normal blood pressure and heart beat of the patient to keep the organs in good condition.”Therefore, the Government could choose a panel of doctors from private hospitals. When fears of malpractice were pointed out, the surgeon said that the Government could choose doctors with credibility.
At present, the State Government-appointed co-ordinator decided which hospitals the organs should be taken to. As the kidney’s life or cold ischaemic time was six hours and that the liver’s 12 hours, availability of transportation held the key to the success of the whole process. Therefore, it would be better if the transplantation was done in a city where the organs were also harvested. The surgeon, however, said that Coimbatore did not have the facility for liver and heart transplantation.
Besides all these issues, the biggest question was who would pay the hospital bill of the organ donor when private hospitals made huge money from the recipients. Dr. Vijayakumar said his hospital waived the charges for Gnanaprakasham, but private hospitals could not always do this. Though rules prohibited a donor’s family from knowing who the recipients were, there must be some mechanism that ensured that the former did not have to pay the hospital bill, in recognition of their contribution to save others’ lives, he said.