With 70% of India's 1.4 lakh accident victims diagnosed as brain dead every year, the country has 80,000 potential organ donors. Yet, organs from only about 100 are retrieved, making the percentage of cadaver donations a dismal 0.3%.
Though there are more than 10 lakh people suffering from end-stage organ failure, only around 3,500 organ transplants are performed every year. At least 10 people in the country die every day for want of an organ, and every 10 minutes a new name is added to the waiting list of people who need an organ transplant.
"Things have improved somewhat over the last few years, but overall cadaver organ donation is still negligible. There is no other way but to create awareness about cadaver donation," said Dr RK Srivastava, Director General of Health Services (DGHS), government of India at MOHAN Foundations 4th annual transplant coordinators workshop.
Since the Organ Transplantation Act came into existence 17 years ago, the country has seen a little more than 1,000 cadaver donations. "There's an indefinite waiting period for cadaver organ donation. In my department, people registered since 2004 are still waiting for an organ," said Dr SK Aggarwal, professor and head, department of nephrology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
For the cadaver liver transplant donations, the country is able to meet only 4% of the requirement.
"Of 20,000 people who need a liver transplant, of which 2,000 are children, we manage only about 800 or so in a year," said Dr Anupam Sibal, group medical director and pediatric hepatologist, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, at the annual meet of Indian Society of Organ Transplantation.
The main challenge that lies before the doctors is to convince the family, in the wake of weak laws on the issue.
"By law, we can't take a patient off ventilator unless the family agrees, even if the patient is brain dead," said Dr Manav Wadhawan, surgeon, liver transplant unit, Apollo.