‘Keeping alive brain-dead patients costly’
Responding to the state move to make it compulsory for hospitals and nursing homes to list brain-dead patients in a central data base, officials from the Zonal Transplant Coordination Committee (ZTCC) said the government should look into the costs involved in harvesting organs and keeping brain dead patients alive till the organs are retrieved.
State health minister Suresh Shetty on Tuesday announced that apart from hospitals, nursing homes (with more than 35 beds) should notify brain dead patients to the ZTCC, so measures can be taken to retrieve organs in the nursing home. The move is meant to boost organ donations in the city.
However, this may be challenging for nursing homes and smaller hospitals, owing to the costs involved. Earlier, a brain dead patient in a nursing home would have to be shifted to a major hospital, where organs could be retrieved. While the costs of harvesting a liver could be more than Rs 80,000, the cost of harvesting a kidney is about Rs 20,000. Besides, only specialist surgeons can retrieve organs.
“At present, after a relative of a brain-dead patient agrees to donate his organs, the hospital on humanitarian grounds stops charging them for the hospitalisation. It takes Rs1 lakh to Rs1.5 lakh to maintain a brain dead person,” said Dr Sujata Patwardhan, secretary, ZTCC.
This includes charges of keeping the patient on a ventilator, in the intensive care unit and medication. Dr Patwardhan said the Human Organs Transplant Act (HOTA), 1994, does not allow the hospital to charge the recipient for retrieval of organs. However, a doctor involved in kidney transplants in a private hospital said recipients usually bear the cost.
Experts said there should be a system whereby the recipient pays for retrieval of organs. “If a patient undergoes a live kidney transplant, he pays for the surgery and the donor’s treatment. A similar principle could be applied for cadaver donation,” said Dr Gustad Daver, president, ZTCC.