Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Every year thousands of patients die because of organ failure. Most of these patients can recover completely to lead a healthy life if they had access to organ transplantation: whether it is kidneys, liver, heart or lungs. While family members can donate a kidney or part of their liver to their loved ones, it is not always possible to find medically suitable donors within the family. Deceased donors can obviously donate organs such as heart or lungs only. The current organ donation rate in India is less than 10% of the rate in the Western world. This is despite the fact that thousands of young adults succumb to accidents in our country.

Anyone irrespective of age, gender can donate organs. There is no age-limit for organ donation. Liver and kidneys from donors even 80 years of age have been successfully transplanted into patients needing those organs.

Organs donated by a single donor can changes the lives of upto seven patients. These include the liver, two kidneys, pancreas, heart and two lungs. In addition, eye donation can give vision to two blind patients. Tissues such as heart valves, are useful for life saving operations.

Brain death is legal death. It means that the brain has stopped functioning and the chance of recovery is zero. Brain death usually occurs because of severe head injury or massive stroke. Less common causes of brain death are some forms of poisoning, brain tumors and infections. The heart may continue to beat for one or two days longer, but it will ultimately stop. By confirming death prior to the heart stopping, organs from the donor can be recovered for the purpose of transplantation.

Cardiac death is death because of the heart stopping completely. This inevitably follows brain death after a short period of time. Cardiac death means that vital organs like the liver, kidneys stop being supplied by blood and will start getting damaged. Unless these organs are recovered urgently they will not be suitbale for transplantation. Organs donated by cardiac death donors are used regularly in Western countries for transplantation pirposes. However, the facilities and infrastructure necessary for this is still not widely available in our country. Hence at present, only organs from brain death donors can be used for transplantation in India.

Most patients who had cancer in the past and were treated for the same are suitable to donate their organs. The decision is made by the doctors based on the type of cancer, type of treatment received and the time gap between cure and the time of brain death. There are very few types of cancers, which are absolute contraindications for organ donation.

Patients who haveactive or untreated cancer at the time of brain death usually are not suitable for organ donation. However, most patients with skin cancers and brain tumors can be donors after brain death. Again, doctors on a case-by-case basis will take the decision.

Once the donor’s family consents to proceed with organ donation, the organs are allocated to patients waiting for transplantation across the state or even across the nation based on multiple  criteria such as blood group, size match, medical urgency and waiting time. Once an organs are recovered from the donor, they are immediately transported to the recipient hospitals by road or by  air. During this period, the organs are stored in preservation solution on ice to maintain the temperature at around 4C.  These organs should be transplanted into the recipients as soon as possible, some organs earlier than the others (within 4-6 hours for the heart and lungs, within 12 hours for the liver and 24 hours for the kidney). The tissues which are retrieved like cornea and skin can be stored in tissue banks, from where they can be used as and when required.

Every patient who has an organ transplant is carefully assessed by his or her team of doctors to see that they need the transplant. Most of these patients have been on the waiting list for months and even years as the number of donated organs is still very small in our country. Patients who need transplantation because of liver damage after alcohol consumption may also be on the list. But these patients are carefully scrutinized and only patients who have completely stopped drinking alcohol for at least 6 months are added to the waiting list. In addition patients need transplants for a lot of other reasons such as viral, infections, diabetes, hypertension.

Usually when a deceased donor’s family agrees to donate organs for transplantation, the organs are transplanted into patients with the highest priority or those who have been waiting for a donor organ  for the longest time. However, in special circumstances, one or more organs from a deceased donor can be transplanted into a patient who medically needs a transplant and is a relative or a close friend of the deceased donor or donor’s family. This is called Directed or designated donation. The other organs will then be allocated according to priority.

No, there is no cost involved for the donor’s family  to donate organs.

The surgical procedure for organ donation is carried out expert surgical teams. A single incision extending over the chest and abdomen is used to recover all the organs. The incision is closed carefully and a sterile surgical dressing applied.

No. The donor and recipient information are confidential, by law. Only basic donor information like age and gender will be provided to the recipient. However, in special situations, communication in between the donor’s family and the recipient may be facilitated if both agree for the same.

You can register your wish to donate after death on the NFLR website. We will send you a donor card following your registration. You can also register your wish through the one of the voluntary organizations that is involved in this work. The most important part of this decision however is to discuss your decision with your loved ones. The decision to agree to donate is finally taken by your next of kin, and it will make their decision much more easier, if they are aware of your intentions.