All You Need to Know About Organ Donation in Chennai

Organ donation is a way to help society with the gift of living even after death. Pic: Representative image by SRMH

Organ donation and body donation have gained momentum in India, especially in Tamil Nadu which has been a pioneer and leader in transplants. Despite the progress being made in the state, general public awareness of organ donation must increase in several ways in order to meet existing requirements.

Currently, India as a whole needs about 200,000 kidneys, 50,000 hearts and 50,000 livers per year for those who need transplants. The current annual availability, however, is 10,000 kidneys and 1,000 livers. It’s very discouraging. With a population of over 130 crores, the organ donation rate must be higher than what is currently prevailing. The organ donation per million inhabitants in Spain is 49.6; Croatia 34.6; in the United States 36.9, while it is only 0.52 in India.

Read more: Chennaiites, here is your chance to save a life through stem cell donation

My father, Mr. AMMS Xavier, was a strong advocate for organ donation and even wrote a book called “Let Life Live On” providing guidelines and information about it. It was the result of years of research and consultation with doctors and surgeons. In his book, he talks about eligibility criteria for donation, who can donate, and who can accept transplants. He also talks about what can be done to pawn his organs, what types of organ transplants are possible, and what is the time frame for these transplants.

True to the cause, after his death, his body was donated to Sri Ramachandra Medical College for research and teaching purposes, fulfilling his promise. An updated version of the book ‘Let Life Live on’ is also in preparation. (If you have valuable information, please send it to

AMMS Xavier wrote a book about organ donation before his death
Mr AMMS Xavier. Photo: Arokya Inian

Things to keep in mind for organ donation

For anyone interested in donating their organs, it is important to note that not all patients are eligible to donate organs. Most of the time, brain dead patients or accident victims are eligible. In the case of an accident victim, if the person is deceased, but their blood and organs are still in good condition, and if they have committed to donating their organs, or if their family is willing to commit, then the transplant can be done.

Besides these two categories, “living organ donation” is also an option in the case of certain organs such as kidneys, whereby a living person donates an organ or part of it to be transplanted. for patients with terminal organ failure. For kidney transplants, family members are primarily considered for donation. If none are eligible, state-held records are reviewed.

The donation of his whole body after his death is also an option. This is usually done for research and educational purposes.

“Brain dead” status must be declared with thorough controls in place, to ensure the legality of organ donation.

“A panel of four physicians must declare brain stem death twice within six hours.
These are: (a) a doctor in charge of the hospital, (b) a doctor appointed from a group of doctors appointed by the competent authority, (c) a doctor treating the patient and ( (d) a neurologist or neurosurgeon appointed from a committee designated by the competent authority.

Time is critical in all cases, as any transplant must be completed within six to eight hours. The body must also be stored under specific conditions (often refrigerated) before it can be transported and transplanted.

In the case of an eye transplant, the following things to do apply:

  • If antibiotic eye drops are readily available, leave a few drops in both eyes.
  • Gently close your eyes and make sure your eyes are closed tightly.
  • Turn off the fan and turn on the air conditioner if available.
  • Raise the deceased person’s head by placing a pillow under it.
  • Place a clean cotton ball or cotton cloth soaked in cold water over the closed eyelids.
  • Keep the deceased person’s death certificate handy, if available.

It is also important to note who cannot be an organ donor. Patients with AIDS, hepatitis B or C, sepsis, acute leukemia, tetanus, cholera, meningitis, encephalitis, etc. may not be able to donate their organs.

Read more: Are you considering organ donation? Here is all the information you need

Pawn his organs in advance

To donate your organs, you must first make a commitment. There are several parts or registers that list and then associate organs with patients. In the case of donating one’s eyes, one can contact any hospital (especially eye hospitals) to make one’s pledge. My family contacted Shankar Nethralaya in Chennai to engage our eyes.

To donate our other organs, we took the help of an NGO called the Mohan Foundation, based in Chennai. They have been involved in organ donation coordination for nearly two decades. A form with basic information can be filled out through their website. Once done, you will receive a confirmation of your commitment. You then print it out and have it as a laminated card in your wallet.

Family members should be informed that the pledge has been made so that when the time comes, they know what to expect. The reason we keep this in a wallet or on our person is that organ donation can only be done by accident victims or by a deceased person. So, in the event that something unfortunate happens, anyone can check your personal wallet or belongings and see that you have made a pledge. It is important to remember that even if you have pledged your organs, your family must actually sign paperwork to accept such a pledge before anything can be done. At least two of his family members must sign these documents.

In case of body donation, only hospitals that are part of educational institutions can actually accept these bodies. In Tamil Nadu, many government colleges accept this; Madras Medical College, Kilpauk Medical College and Ramachandra Medical College are the only three in Chennai that accept full body pledges.

madras medical school
Madras Medical College is one of three institutions in Chennai that accepts full body pledges. Photo: VTN/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY:SA 3.0)

National Committee to Regulate Organ Donation

Organ transplantation in Tamil Nadu is regulated by the Indian Human Organ Transplantation Act 1994. Matching and listing is facilitated by the Transplantation Authority of Tamil Nadu (TRANSTAN) and several NGOs.

TRANSTAN was created on December 12, 2014, in order to prevent the illegal trade in organs, in particular kidneys. It is not easy to obtain a large number of nephrology and dialysis machines. As a result, there is a long waiting list for those waiting for kidneys. Kidney transplant patients must register in the national registry and wait years to find donors who would match the patients. One cannot simply ask a third party to donate for them. They need to start looking for donors within their family.

If a family member is ineligible or unwilling, patients register and wait for a matched donor. Due to the fact that there is a long waiting list, people try to skip the queue. Many try to pay people for their organs accordingly. Often, intentionally or not, people’s kidneys are transplanted. As a result, kidney transplants are probably the origin of how the government began to develop guidelines on the subject.

Again, as other methods of organ transplantation in medicine have developed, other organs such as the liver, pancreas, heart, and lungs could be donated. The state government has begun to develop more organ and patient registries. There is a committee within TRANSTAN that matches donors with patients and grants approval for transplants. The state government also developed “green corridors” through which ambulances could travel, in order to quickly transport organs to patients in need.

Fears around organ donation

There is a lot of concern and fear around organ donation. Many wonder if this is the right thing to do or if it would be accepted by their respective communities and religious beliefs. To combat this, the medical field has tried to address these fears.

In the case of eye donation, many people believe that if they were to donate their eyes, the entire eye would be gouged out. In reality, however, all that is used for the transplant is just the cornea. Once the cornea is removed, the eyes appear unchanged. Sometimes they may put a glass cover over the top of the eye just to make the eye look normal. Many of these misconceptions can be rectified with simple research to allay fears.

In my father’s case, we had both been researching organ donation for years. As a result, there was less fear around the process, and instead an understanding that donation and transplantation is a way to help those in life-threatening situations.

If people had more access to practical and procedural information about giving, they would feel as passionate about the issue as we do.

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