The Indian government has announced the launch of a new online network which will provide details related to organ transplantation, such as blood groups and availability of organs for transplantation.
The online network, which is being set up under the soon to come up National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO) would list all potential donors and recipients along with information like their blood groups and other medical details, a senior health ministry official told IANS on condition of anonymity.
"We are soon going to set up an online network under the National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation. The online service will be able to connect people directly to the donor," the official said.
NOTTO, an autonomous body under the health ministry, would be the nodal agency coordinating all organ transplants in the country.
The official said the National Information Centre, which is the premier government organisation involved in IT applications, has been entrusted with the task of setting up the online network.
All hospitals in the country, whether private, public or district-level health centres, will be part of the network.
Harsh Jauhari, chairman in the department of renal transplant at the Sir Gangaram Hospital, said: "Hospitals as well as patients or their families can match their requirements online and as soon as the needs of a potential donor and recipient meet they can contact each other."
Jauhari was one of the experts that advised the government on the online service.
"The names of both donors and recipients would be deleted as soon as their requirements are met," Jauhari told IANS.
According to Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Jagdish Prasad, NOTTO will be set up at the Safdarjung Hospital in south Delhi. "The building is ready," he added.
Anoop Misra, chairman, Fortis Centre for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases, said: "We needed something like this very much. At least the process should be started."
He said networks like these are already in place in the US.
"It is a doable thing and a patient-driven necessity," Misra told IANS.
Under NOTTO, the government will give funds to private and public hospitals to appoint a coordinator for organ transplants. Free software would also be given to all centres.
Apart from NOTTO, four regional centres would also be set up across the country.
The step was acutely felt after a kidney transplant racket was busted five years ago in which many poor people were lured and were then secretly operated upon and their kidneys removed.
The government then brought changes in the Transplantation of Human Organs Act (THOA), 1994, specially for the benefit of patients of renal failure.
About 200,000 people are diagnosed with renal failure every year and for most, the only cure is a kidney transplant. But less than 3,000 transplants are carried out annually in India due to strictures on possible donors under the present law.
The amended act allows organ donations from a "near relative", which it defines as spouse, son, daughter, father, mother, brother or sister. The amended law broadens the definition of "near relative" to include grandparents, grandchildren, uncles and aunts.
Also, not-so-close relatives who have stayed with the patient can donate organs, provided there is no commercial dealing.
The law makes swapping of organs between two unrelated families legal in cases where organs of willing near relative donors are found medically incompatible.
But the swap should be without any commercial transactions, it stipulates.