It is a widely known fact that there is an acute shortage of organs for transplantation in India. But Dr. Francis Delmonico, President-elect of World Transplantation Society and renowned transplant surgeon is in Chennai for a special reason. Though India's record of organ donation is dismally low, the organ donor rate in the southern state of TamilNadu with its capital at Chennai is 1.2 per million population-15 times the national average! In an exclusive interview to Medindia, during his brief visit to Chennai this week, Dr. Delmonico shares his appreciation for Chennai's deceased organ donation program, his distress at organ sales continuing in many parts of the world and his expert tips to improve organ donation and transplantation in India.
Q. You are in Chennai for a reason. Tell us your observation of how the deceased organ donations are progressing here?
AdvertisementA. The promising figures in organ donation and transplantation in Chennai drew me here in the first place. I'm impressed with the kind sincerity and hard work that is going into the organ donation program by NGOs like Mohan foundation and Tanker Foundation and you're certainly on the right track here. I'm deeply interested in the program's progress and will be returning to Chennai soon. Meanwhile, I'll take this success story to other places in the world.
Q. Deep rooted religious beliefs mostly hamper organ donation in India. I work with NGOs that struggle to dispel these myths and facilitate organ donation. Tell us how we can take this forward?
A. I do agree it is difficult to change a mindset, but we have to keep trying. No religion in the world prevents a person from being a recipient. Tell them, there is a world outside that's larger than oneself. Or here's another tactic. Help people understand that organs don't know religion, ethnicity or culture. Just as a Palestinian's heart will work well in an Israeli's body so will a Christian's kidney in a Buddhist's body or a Hindu's liver in a Muslim's body. But remember, you can't have these arguments with grieving families in Intensive Care Units (ICU). Organ donation programs don't begin and end in hospitals. We have to sensitize people at a larger levelótap into media resources, spread the word in educational institutions and corporate places. Do whatever it takes until the message of organ donation sinks into the population and begins to show positive results in terms of increase in the number of deceased organ donations.
Q. We just saw a presentation on certain problems hampering successful donations and transplantations in this part of the world, such as reluctance to donate for various reasons, identification of brain dead patients, maintenance of brain dead patients, lab results, brain death certification, police inquest, authorization for organ removal, post mortem, transportation etc. In your observation, what do you think are our strengths?
A. I have observed many strengths. The sincerity, the level of hard work and the team work that goes into the deceased organ program here is amazing. You just have to take it to the next level and extend it all over the country. Chennai's ability to care, leaves me in no doubt that this deceased organ donation program will be a trendsetter for the rest of India.
Q. There must be many, but can you mention a proud/poignant moment in your worldwide campaign for deceased organ donation?
A. I'm very proud to be in Chennai!
Dr. Francis Delmonico's visit has certainly given a fillip to the deceased organ donation program in India. With projections indicating a rise in diabetes mellitus and high blood pressure that point to an increase in the number of patients in India with organ failure needing kidney, heart and liver transplants, it is imperative to step up the organ donation program in TamilNadu and extend the enthusiasm for organ donation and transplantation to the rest of India.