By Roli Srivastava
MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Doctors in India will now
get text alerts reminding them to ask families to donate organs
of their deceased loved ones as part of a nationwide campaign
to solve the country's organ shortage that has fuelled a black
market trade in organs.
The drive, "Poochna Mat Bhoolo" - which means "don't forget to
ask" in Hindi - will target 300,000 doctors and is the latest
in a string of awareness campaigns in the country after a
kidney racket involving a poor woman was busted in a top Mumbai
hospital last year.
According to government data, 200,000 people are waitlisted for
kidneys in India and 30,000 currently await a liver. Legal
donations meet about 3 to 5 percent of the demand.
"Families don't remember to donate organs when a loved one
dies, or it's too late by the time they do. So we are reminding
doctors to speak to them immediately after a death," said
Krishan Kumar Aggarwal, president of the Indian Medical
Association, which launched the drive.
"Human trafficking for organs will stop if cadaver organ
donations pick up."
Commercial trade in organs is illegal in India. Donations to a
patient by a close relative are allowed but are few in number.
Some waitlisted patients, in desperation, seek the services of
middlemen to arrange organs for money.
The middlemen scout villages for potential donors, whom they
sometimes lure with money and false promises of a job in the
"Organ failures are commonly caused by lifestyle diseases and
most often affect the rich, which leads to the possibility of
exploitation of the poor," Anil Kumar, who heads India's organ
transplant programme, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Kumar's department has been alerted to various forms of organ
trade - from people posting advertisements on websites offering
money to donors, to kidnappings for organs, as well as people
from Nepal trying to sell organs in India to rebuild their
homes after the earthquake.
Campaigners say the organ supply-demand gap can be bridged if
doctors, particularly those in intensive care units of major
hospitals, are sensitised to counsel families to donate organs.
The "Poochna mat bhoolo" campaign is critical as it would have
doctors speak to families, eliminating middlemen.
Posters reminding doctors to ask the donation question will be
put up across hospitals as part of the campaign.
(Reporting by Roli Srivastava, editing by Alisa Tang. Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights,
trafficking and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)
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