Providing fresh momentum to the army’s organ donation drive, defence minister AK Antony has decided to pledge his organs. The minister's initiative could have a cascading effect and motivate more soldiers to support organ donation and transplantation, which is still an embryonic concept in the army.
Antony told Hindustan Times, “It is a noble cause worth associating with. I would like to pledge my organs. Organ transplantation can give a new lease of life to patients who have lost all hope of living.”
Organ donation rate is dismal in India which has just 0.05 donors per million. The Western world fares better with some countries having over 50 donors per million.
The army has injected glamour into its drive to popularise organ donation. After getting beauty queens Gul Panag and Nikita Anand to pledge their organs last year, the force roped in actress Priyanka Chopra and cricketer-turned-MP Navjot Sidhu to pledge their organs under the aegis of the Armed Forces Organ Retrieval and Transplantation Authority (AFORTA) last month. The AFORTA believes that by joining the organ donation drive, celebrities can help dispel several myths and fears surrounding organ donation in India.
Around 10 lieutenant generals of the army have already pledged their organs. The AFORTA is planning to approach the three service chiefs to support organ donation and transplantation. Over 500 soldiers, including many major generals, have pledged their organs with AFORTA, launched at Army’s Research and Referral (RR) Hospital in early 2007 to counter organ shortfall.
The contribution of personnel below officer rank (PBOR) to the organ donation drive has been immense, with jawans time and again triumphing over personal loss to fill joy and sunshine in the lives of others. There have been numerous cases where jawans have demonstrated true soldierly instincts and donated the organs of their loved ones, declared brain dead, to save the lives of terminally ill patients.
The Army’s Research and Referral Hospital has carried out more than half a dozen multi-organ transplants.