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Analyzing Organ Donations In India

Updated: Jan 18

Body donation involves giving a part of the body (organ) to an end-stage organ diseased person who needs a transplant. An organ is a part of the body performing a function like heart, lungs, kidney, liver, etc. The kidney, liver, heart, lungs, small intestines, and tissues such as corneas, heart valves, skin, and bone are the organs that can be donated for transplantation.

Types of Organ Donations

There are two types of organ donations

  1. Living donor organ donation: Living Donor is any person not younger than 18 years of age who, during his or her lifetime, voluntarily authorizes the removal of any of his or her organs and/or tissue as per prevalent therapeutic medical practices. Donating a kidney during a person’s lifetime (the other kidney is capable of maintaining the body functions adequately for the donor), donating a portion of the pancreas (half of the pancreas is adequate for maintaining pancreatic functions) or a portion of the liver (the segments of the liver will regenerate in both recipient and donor after some time) are a few examples of this kind of donations.

  2. Donation of deceased donor organ: Deceased Donor is someone who may become an organ and tissue donor after his or her Death (Brainstem / Cardiac), regardless of age, race, or gender. It includes the consent of a close relative or an individual in lawful possession of the dead body. If the deceased donor is under 18 years of age, then the consent of one of the parents or any close relative approved by the parents is necessary. An individual can donate multiple organs and tissues after death (brainstem/cardiac). His / her organ still lives in the body of another person, for a particular time even after such a person’s death. At the time of death, medical appropriateness for the donation is determined.

National Organ Transplant Program

Directorate-General of Health Services, Government of India implements the National Organ Transplant System to carry out the activities referred to in the amending Act. This program helps to train the workforce and to encourage organ donation from the deceased persons. The aim of the program is:

  1. To organize a network of procurement.

  2. Storage of organs and tissues for transplantation.

  3. Facilitation of dead organs’ and tissues’ donations.

National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization (NOTTO)

National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization (NOTTO) is a national level organization set up under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, Health Services Directorate-General. NOTTO’s National Network Division serves as the apex hub for the coordination of all operations and networking for the procurement and distribution of organs and tissues and the management of organ registries.

Legal Framework in India

In 1994 the Transplantation of Human Organs Act (THOA) was passed in India. This provides a mechanism for controlling the collection, preservation, and transplantation of human organs for medicinal purposes, and the prevention of trade in human organs. The act was subsequently amended in 2011. Transplantation of human organs and tissues Rules 2014 is notified in March according to the amending Act 2011.

Shortage of Organs

Organ shortages are practically a universal concern but Asia lags most out of the rest of the world. In Asia, India lags far behind other nations. It is not that there are not enough transplanting organs. Nearly anyone who dies naturally, or in an accident, is a possible contributor. Still, then, countless patients are unable to locate a donor. There is a large disparity between transplant-needing patients and the organs available in India. An estimated 1.8 lakh people per year suffer from renal failure, but the number of renal transplants performed is only about 6000. An approximate 2 lakh patients die annually in India from liver failure or liver cancer, around 10-15 per cent of which can be saved with a timely liver transplant. Therefore, approximately 25-30 thousand liver transplants are expected annually in India but only about one thousand five hundred are performed. Similarly, about 50,000 people suffer annually from heart failure, but only about 10 to 15 heart transplants are performed in India each year. In Cornea’s transplantation case, about 25000 transplants are performed annually against a requirement of 1 lakh.

The need for Organ Donation

There are many reasons for the need for donations in India.

  • Approximately 5 lakh people die each year because of the organs being unavailable.

  • The number of prospective recipients is much greater than donor numbers.

  • Only 301 hospitals will perform organ transplants in India, of which only 250 are registered with NOTTO.

  • ODR rates for India are just 0.34.

  • The estimated number of brain-deaths in India is about 1.5 lakh. If each patient donates their organs, it might solve a huge number of problems.

  • There is a perception in India that we live in ‘kalyug’ where no one does anything for another without vested interests.

Issues and Challenges

Some of the existing struggles, issues, and challenges Regarding the organ donation/transplantation are :

  • Weak infrastructure at Govt. hospital service.

  • Lack of understanding in the concept of brain stem death amongst stakeholders.

  • Vague understanding and disposition towards organ donation (high death rate).

  • Maintaining consistency in transplantation.

  • Recovery and banking of tissues.

  • Organ trade prevention and monitoring.

  • Expensive treatments, especially for poor and uninsured patients.

However, NGO’s plays a great role in tackling at least some of the above-mentioned challenges and issues. Gift Your Organ Foundation, Narmada Kidney Foundation, Apex Kidney Foundation, Multi-Organ Transplantation and Human & Education Research (MOTHER), etc are some of the NGOs which serve to link the performance of the government, organ donors, and the hospitals.


Akshita Kesharwani is currently pursuing BA.LLB at Alliance University.

They can be contacted at akshitakesharwani06@gmail.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/akshita-kesharwani-07aa511a4

Edited By: Swathi. Ashok. Nair.


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