An RTI reply has revealed that Dr SN Medical College received 1,805 eyes as donations and transplanted only 1,063 of them from 1996 to 2011. The medical college did not mention what happened to the remaining 742 eyes as this information was not sought in the application.
The government has now set up a three-member committee to probe the missing eyes. On the directions of health minister Rajendra Rathore, principal secretary medical education Subodh Agarwal has formed a three-member committee headed by Jodhpur divisional commissioner Hemant Gera and ordered to submit a report within three days. Rathore said based on the report, action will be taken against the person responsible.
In the RTI reply, the college was silent on the 742 eyes of which there is no record. A section of the media reported on Wednesday that the apathy of medical college officials caused a loss of 742 donated eyes that could have changed the lives of visually impaired people.
Virendra Raj Mehta, a retired government official and RTI activist, had filed the application on November 20 last seeking details of eye donations and use. He had demanded figures from the beginning of college in 1965, but college administration provided year-wise figures from 1996 to 2011. It was found that 742 eyes which would have enabled visually impaired persons to see were not used.
Mehta said, "I don't know where the rest of the 742 eyes went. I think they were not put to good use." He added that the college told him verbally that they preserve the unfit eyes for other uses.
The RTI activist did not ask for details of eyes which were not transplanted and the college did not give it. Now the medical college administration was on the backfoot and said the unused eyes were either infected, unfit for a transplant or were used for dissection by postgraduate students.
Dr NK Chhangani, additional principal of the medical college said, "We used more than 95% of the donated eyes during the last five years." He added that the college transplanted 56 eyes from the 58 it got in 2008, 58 from 60 in 2009, 46 from 48 in 2010 and 20 from 26 in 2011.
He said that proper techniques to preserve eyes for a long time were not available earlier, but now they had them.
Dr Chhangani said that following an eye donation, the eye has to be tested in a lab before transplantation. He said, "The technician taking the donated eye takes the cornea and a blood sample of the dead body. After investigation, we decide on transplantation of the donated eye."
He added that if the deceased is found to be infected with diseases like septicemia, HIV or hepatitis, his or her eyes are not used for a transplant. In such cases, doctors preserve the cornea for use in curing eye injuries and teaching medical students.