Tamil Nadu leads the country in organ donation and it is looking to better its achievement by actively involving more government hospitals. Only a few hospitals in the State perform transplant surgeries and the contribution by private hospitals has been significant.
In 1989 when Professor Russel Walker Strong set out to perform the world's first partial liver transplant from a live donor in Brisbane the media went out of control with anger "I was accused of using babies as guinea pigs. Headlines identified me as the surgeon who was running amok," said Prof Strong. More than two decades later, he stood before an audience in Tamil Nadu, a state, that just didn't pioneer organ transplant in India but continued to lead the program in the country.
Reports say in 2014, 155 deceased organ donors gave new life to more than 500 people in Tamil Nadu. This was the highest number of deceased organ donors on a single day when on February 15, the families of 19 people declared brain dead agreed to donate the organs of their kin. Kidneys formed the largest number of organs donated (275), followed by liver (147) and heart (52).
"We were able to do this only because of the combined effort by the government, private hospitals, NGOs and police who conceptualized and enforced 'green corridors' to ensure there are minimal obstacles when organs are transported," said Dr Amalorpavanathan, convener, Cadaver Transplant Program. Last year also saw the first small intestine transplantation in the state.
Age of the donors ranges from from 21 to 50 comprising 61% of the total donors. Over 50% of brain deaths in the state involve young people with head injury caused due to accidents on the road. Health secretary J Radhakrishnan said the presence of grief counselors in hospitals also helped improve organ donation figures, in addition to better awareness. "Families are able to take more informed decisions to donate organs now. That is heartening," he said. Around 13 donors in 2014 belonged to the 10-20 years age group, while 22 of them were above the age of 60.
Most number of donations came from Chennai, Kanchipuram, Thiruvallur and Vellore, followed by districts like Coimbatore, Erode and Salem.